Counties that are more religiously conservative have higher rates of infant mortality, according to a new study published in the May issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.
Researchers analyzed rates of infant deaths and cross-checked that data with whether an area had a greater number of conservative Protestants, or leaned towards mainline Protestants and Catholics.
Sociologist Ginny Garcia-Alexander, a lead author of the study, examined the number of deaths from four weeks through the first year. She explained in a Portland State University research update that babies who die during that period of development die because of birth defects, which tend to be prevented by advances in medical knowledge. Previous studies have shown that communities that lean towards religious fundamentalism might be more likely to reject scientific advances.
Later in life child mortality is linked to outside factors like poverty.
“This is continuing to show us that there are things that we can do in our communities to improve health outcomes,” Garcia-Alexander said.
“And to the extent that people who belong to religious organizations are aware of that, knowing that you are a communicator of health information, that can be a really valuable way to harness the power of the group and the community to communicate helpful practices for infant health and public health interventions.”