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Maternal health: does prenatal care make a difference?

  • Karen Smith Conway

    (Department of Economics, Durham, NH, USA)

  • Andrea Kutinova

    (Department of Economics, Durham, NH, USA)

This research attempts to close an important gap in health economics regarding the efficacy of prenatal care and policies designed to improve access to that care, such as Medicaid. We argue that a key beneficiary - the mother - has been left completely out of the analysis. If prenatal care significantly improves the health of the mother, then concluding that prenatal care is 'ineffective' or that the Medicaid expansions are a 'failure' is premature. This paper seeks to rectify the oversight by estimating the impact of prenatal care on maternal health and the associated cost savings. We first set up a joint maternal-infant health production framework that informs our empirical analysis. Using data from the National Maternal and Infant Health Survey, we estimate the effects of prenatal care on several different measures of maternal health such as body weight status and excessive hospitalizations. Our results suggest that receiving timely and adequate prenatal care may increase the probability of maintaining a healthy weight after the birth and, perhaps for blacks, of avoiding a lengthy hospitalization after the delivery. Given the costs to society of obesity and hospitalization, these are benefits worth exploring before making conclusions about the effectiveness of prenatal care - and Medicaid. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1002/hec.1097
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Article provided by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. in its journal Health Economics.

Volume (Year): 15 (2006)
Issue (Month): 5 ()
Pages: 461-488

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Handle: RePEc:wly:hlthec:v:15:y:2006:i:5:p:461-488
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/jhome/5749

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  1. Chou, Shin-Yi & Grossman, Michael & Saffer, Henry, 2004. "An economic analysis of adult obesity: results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 565-587, May.
  2. Currie, Janet & Gruber, Jonathan, 2001. "Public health insurance and medical treatment: the equalizing impact of the Medicaid expansions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 63-89, October.
  3. Jonathan Gruber, 1997. "Policy Watch: Medicaid and Uninsured Women and Children," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(4), pages 199-208, Fall.
  4. Janet Currie & Jonathan Gruber, 1997. "The Technology of Birth: Health Insurance, Medical Interventions, and Infant Health," NBER Working Papers 5985, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Partha Deb & Karen Smith Conway, 2002. "Is Prenatal Care Really Ineffective? Or, is the 'Devil' in the Distribution?," Economics Working Paper Archive at Hunter College 02/2, Hunter College Department of Economics.
  6. Theodore Joyce, 1997. "Impact of Augmented Prenatal Care on Birth Outcomes of Medicaid Recipients in New York City," NBER Working Papers 6029, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Currie, Janet & Gruber, Jonathan, 1996. "Saving Babies: The Efficacy and Cost of Recent Changes in the Medicaid Eligibility of Pregnant Women," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(6), pages 1263-96, December.
  8. Warner, Geoffrey L, 1995. "Prenatal Care Demand and Birthweight Production of Black Mothers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(2), pages 132-37, May.
  9. Hope Corman & Theodore J. Joyce & Michael Grossman, 1985. "Birth Outcome Production Functions in the U.S," NBER Working Papers 1729, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Currie, Janet & Grogger, Jeffrey, 2002. "Medicaid expansions and welfare contractions: offsetting effects on prenatal care and infant health?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 313-335, March.
  11. Hope Corman & Michael Grossman, 1984. "Determinants of Neonatal Mortality Rates in the U.S.: A Reduced Form Model," NBER Working Papers 1387, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Geoffrey Warner, 1998. "Birthweight Productivity of Prenatal Care," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 65(1), pages 42-63, July.
  13. Hope Corman & Theodore J. Joyce & Michael Grossman, 1987. "Birth Outcome Production Function in the United States," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 22(3), pages 339-360.
  14. Avery, Christopher & Heymann, S Jody & Zeckhauser, Richard, 1995. "Risks to Selves, Risks to Others," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(2), pages 61-66, May.
  15. Karen Smith Conway & Lisa DeFelice Kennedy, 2004. "Maternal Depression and the Production of Infant Health," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 71(2), pages 260-286, October.
  16. Rivers, Douglas & Vuong, Quang H., 1988. "Limited information estimators and exogeneity tests for simultaneous probit models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 347-366, November.
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