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Seasonal patterns in newborns’ health: quantifying the roles of climate, communicable disease, economic and social factors

Doyle, Mary-Alice ORCID: 0000-0002-6363-4612 (2023) Seasonal patterns in newborns’ health: quantifying the roles of climate, communicable disease, economic and social factors. Economics and Human Biology, 51. ISSN 1570-677X

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Identification Number: 10.1016/j.ehb.2023.101287


Poor health at birth can have long-term consequences for children’s development. This paper analyses an important factor associated with health at birth: the time of year that the baby is born, and hence seasonal risks they were exposed to in utero. There are multiple potential explanations for seasonality in newborns’ health. Most previous research has examined these in isolation. We therefore do not know which explanations are most important – and hence which policy interventions would most effectively reduce the resulting early-life inequalities. In this paper, I use administrative data to estimate and compare the magnitudes of several seasonal risks, seeking to identify the most important drivers of seasonality in the Northern Territory of Australia, a large territory spanning tropical and arid climates and where newborn health varies dramatically with the seasons. I find that the most important explanations are heat exposure and disease prevalence. Seasonality in food prices and road accessibility have smaller effects on some outcomes. Seasonal fertility patterns, rainfall and humidity do not have statistically significant effects. I conclude that interventions that protect pregnant women from seasonal disease and heat exposure would likely improve newborn health in the Northern Territory, with potential long-term benefits for child development. It is likely that similar impacts would apply in other locations with tropical and arid climates, and that, without action, climate change will accentuate these risks.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2023 The Author(s)
Divisions: Social Policy
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
H Social Sciences
JEL classification: I - Health, Education, and Welfare > I1 - Health > I12 - Health Production: Nutrition, Mortality, Morbidity, Suicide, Substance Abuse and Addiction, Disability, and Economic Behavior
Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics > Q5 - Environmental Economics > Q54 - Climate; Natural Disasters
J - Labor and Demographic Economics > J1 - Demographic Economics > J13 - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
Date Deposited: 10 Aug 2023 14:54
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 04:12

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