Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis


Epidemiology and Biostatistics


Public Health

First Advisor

Jihong Liu


Introduction: Infant mortality is commonly denoted as a marker of population health with more than half of all infant deaths occurring during the neonatal period (0-27 days) of infancy. Mortality for infants born very low birthweight (<1500 grams) is markedly higher than the babies born with normal birthweight (2500-4000 grams). The purpose of this research project was to assess geographic access to perinatal health services and the risk of neonatal death among infants born with very low birth weight. Data and methods: The linked birth and death records of a retrospective cohort of very low birthweight (<1500 grams) infants born in South Carolina between the years 2010 and 2012 were used (n=3191). We assessed the impact of travel time from maternal residence to delivery hospital and travel time from maternal residence to the nearest prenatal care provider (obstetricians/gynecologists, community health center, or rural health clinic). Logistic regression modeling was performed with adjustments for maternal characteristics (race, age, chronic/gestational hypertension, chronic/gestational diabetes mellitus, smoking, prenatal care), newborn characteristics (gestational age, birthweight, gender, NICU admission at birth), and the birth in a level III hospital. Results: There were a total of 563 neonatal deaths in this population and the neonatal mortality rate was 17.64 neonatal deaths per 100 live births. We did not find significant associations of travel time from maternal residence to delivery hospital and to a closest prenatal care provider with neonatal death after adjusting for confounders. However, we found that a one-week increase in gestational age (OR: 0.61 [95% CI: 0.57-0.65]) and non-Hispanic Black mothers (versus non-Hispanic White mothers) (OR: 0.65 [95% CI: 0.45-0.94]), were associated with the lower odds of neonatal death, while non-NICU admission at birth (OR: 5.99 [95% CI: 4.05-8.84]) was associated with an increased odds of neonatal death. Conclusion: Although we did not find that travel time was associated with neonatal mortality among very low birthweight infants, our study identified a few significant correlates for neonatal deaths in this birthweight group. Future studies should investigate the role of geographic access to care on mortality during other periods of infancy and among other birthweight groups.


© 2015, Portavia Featherstone

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