Seasonality of low birth weight prevalence and effects of heat stress on low birth weight in Georgia, U.S.
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Although widely studied, there has been no consistent conclusion on the seasonal patterns of low birth weight (LBW), and the relationships between heat stress and LBW remain to be answered. This thesis uses Georgia’s birth data in 2000 to explore the seasonality of LBW prevalence and examine the relationships between heat stress and LBW, utilizing both statistical and geographic information system (GIS) approaches. Spatial-temporal patterns of LBW rates at the health district level were explored and differences in LBW rates between various months and seasons were tested by one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA); the number of extremely hot days during June, July, and August were summarized to measure heat stress and the relationships between heat stress and LBW were assessed by the Spearman rank correlation method. The results reveal marked spatial-temporal variations in LBW rates in Georgia. Based on this one-year birth data, the correlations between heat stress and birth weight are significant in the month of birth and the third trimester of fetal growth. However, no meaningful correlations between heat stress and LBW rates are found and ANOVA results do not show a significant seasonality of LBW rates in Georgia. Limitations of data and methods, as well as potential future improvements, were also discussed.