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Background: Prenatal care is an important health behavior for optimizing maternal-child outcomes. Social ecological studies have identified both individual- and community-level factors that significantly impact this health behavior. While public health researchers have demonstrated that police officers can act as both barriers and facilitators to health promoting behaviors, little is known about their effect on women’s adequacy of prenatal care utilization (APNCU).
Aim of the Study: Use a mixed-model procedure that nests individuals within their census-tracts of residence to examine the effects of drug arrests (a common police strategy in vulnerable communities) on APNCU among pregnant women residing in an urban setting.
Results: While controlling for several known individual-level factors (i.e., maternal age, education, and pregnancy risk/complications), the study found that police drug arrests negatively impacted APNCU, as did structural disadvantage, distance to primary care, and residential stability. As expected all three individual-level factors positively impacted APNCU.
Conclusions: This research demonstrates that the police are an important social determinant of prenatal care and further supports the limited research on the effect of American policing tactics on community health promotion/disease prevention efforts. We hope this research initiates a new policy paradigm that views the police as an institution of public health as much as an institution of criminal justice.
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