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Open Access Research article

Multi-level modeling of social factors and preterm delivery in Santiago de Chile

Jay S Kaufman12*, Faustino T Alonso1 and Paulina Pino1

Author Affiliations

1 División Epidemiología, Escuela de Salud Publica, La Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile

2 Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina, School of Public Health, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7435, USA

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2008, 8:46  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-8-46

Published: 8 October 2008



Birth before the 37th week of gestation (preterm birth) is an important cause of infant and neonatal mortality, but has been little studied outside of wealthy nations. Chile is an urbanized Latin American nation classified as "middle-income" based on its annual income per capita of about $6000.


We studied the relations between maternal social status and neighborhood social status on risk of preterm delivery in this setting using multilevel regression analyses of vital statistics data linked to geocoded decennial census data. The analytic data set included 56,970 births from 2004 in the metropolitan region of Santiago, which constitutes about 70% of all births in the study area and about 25% of all births in Chile that year. Dimensionality of census data was reduced using principal components analysis, with regression scoring to create a single index of community socioeconomic advantage. This was modeled along with years of maternal education in order to predict preterm birth and preterm low birthweight.


Births in Santiago displayed an advantaged pattern of preterm risk, with only 6.4% of births delivering before 37 weeks. Associations were observed between risk of outcomes and individual and neighborhood factors, but the magnitudes of these associations were much more modest than reported in North America.


While several potential explanations for this relatively flat social gradient might be considered, one possibility is that Chile's egalitarian approach to universal prenatal care may have reduced social inequalities in these reproductive outcomes.