Police Violence Impacts the Health of Black Infants

Findings from Occurrence of fatal police violence during pregnancy and hazard of preterm birth in California are described by lead author Dana Goin. Additional authors include Anu Manchikanti Gomez, Kriszta Farkas, Catherine Duarte, Deborah Karasek, Brittany D. Chambers, Andrea V. Jackson, Jennifer Ahern.

Please describe your research findings.

We examined the risk of preterm birth among people exposed to fatal police violence during their pregnancy, leveraging the timing of incidents within neighborhoods. We found experiencing a police killing in the neighborhood during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of late preterm delivery (delivery between 34-36 weeks of gestational age) overall, with even stronger effects for moderate preterm birth (delivery between 32-33 weeks) among Black women/birthing people for whom a Black person was killed by the police in their neighborhood during their pregnancy.

What is important or unique about this study?

Our findings show that loss of life due to police violence, which already differentially affects Black and Brown communities, can also affect the health of mothers and babies during pregnancy.

 What is already known about this topic, and how do your findings add to or change this existing knowledge?

We should all demand more accountability from our police departments and governmental organizations to reduce the loss of life.

Dana Goin, Researcher and Co-author

This is the first study to examine the effects of fatal police violence on preterm birth, or any aspect of health for mothers/birthing people and their babies.

How does your research impact current clinical practice? How does your research impact patients?

Our research provides evidence showing how policing practices that differentially harm Black people in California can also contribute to their disproportionate risk for preterm delivery. This shifts the conversation from blaming patients for their own adverse health outcomes to acknowledging how additional forms of stress and hardship experienced from racism and institutional violence influences their health. By providing evidence of these undue hardships, our work also suggests that we need to support efforts to reduce police violence and to invest in initiatives that provide more resources and support for people of color to achieve health equity.


Dana Goin
Dana Goin,
UCSF Postdoctoral Scholar, Ob/Gyn, Reproductive Sciences

What should researchers/providers/patients/public health workers/etc. do as a result of these findings?

We should all demand more accountability from our police departments and governmental organizations to reduce loss of life. More research should be done to study the links between police violence and reproductive health, and especially to study the long-term effects of chronic exposure to this type of violence. Providers should screen their patients for exposure to fatal police violence and other forms of stress, and be able to link them to interventions that can provide resources and support.

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Commentary on the study: Police violence and preterm birth—Moving towards antiracism in our research on racism