The Unintended Consequences of Biomedical Advances: Socioeconomic Gradients in Health Behaviors among Pregnant Women

Elaine Hernandez, University of Minnesota

People with more money, knowledge, power, and prestige live longer and healthier lives because they are better able to avoid newly identified health risks when biomedical information emerges. Over time, this results in a socioeconomic gradient in health — the unintended consequences of biomedical advances. To show how and why these unintended consequences come about, I analyze the behaviors of women who are pregnant for the first time and must navigate a plethora of new health information. Consistent with research on the emergence of health inequalities as well as the influence of social relationships on health behaviors, I find an educational gradient in supplement intake and H1N1 vaccination, which is partially attenuated by differences in health knowledge and social network processes. This important empirical example advances our knowledge about the processes that contribute to inequalities in health, and it provides insight into decisions about behaviors that lead to unequal prenatal health.

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Presented in Session 169: Health Behaviors, Health, and Mortality