NEW YORK (AP) - American children of immigrant parents are healthier than children of those born in the United States despite having less access to health insurance and a lower economic status.
The conclusion is one of many presented in a report released Wednesday by the Foundation for Child Development (Foundation for Child Development, in English), a national organization dedicated to promoting children's welfare.
The children of immigrants have lower infant mortality rates, lower physical limitations and lower rates of low birth weight, say the authors of the report and physicians. The phenomenon is known as the "immigrant paradox" among experts.
"The paradox here is that for a long time in the U.S. have linked poverty with poor health," said Dr. Fernando Mendoza, professor of pediatrics at Stanford University in California. "But what happened is that Hispanics, primarily Mexican American population, do not fit that model. We see that perform better in terms of infant mortality and low birth weight," he added.
Children of immigrant mothers are less likely to die in the first year of life than children of mothers born in the United States, the report entitled "Children in immigrant families: Essential for the future of America."
While infant mortality in 2007 was five per 1,000 live births among children of immigrants, the figure was seven per 1,000 live births among children of parents born in America, says the study.
On the other hand, 5.5% of immigrant children have some type of physical limitations in their ability to walk, run or play, while the percentage is 9.2% for the children of American parents.
No one knows exactly why immigrant mothers have healthier babies, said Dr. Leighton Ku, a professor of health policy at Georgetown University in Washington. However, the assumption is that immigrants use less drugs, less alcohol and food from their countries, and therefore less saturated fat.
"What we assume is coming from traditional communities and maintain their traditions, their diet is different, the cultural factor is different," said Ku told The Associated Press.
The low birth weight is disadvantageous for health. 7% of children of immigrants suffer from this problem compared with 8.5% of children of parents born in the U.S., the report said.
One in four American children belong to migrant families and nine out of ten of these children are U.S. citizens, said Don Hernandez, author of the report and professor of sociology at Hunter College in New York.
The statistics change, however, as children of immigrant families remain in the U.S., experts said. Their health worsens due to factors such as a less healthy diet and obesity levels are almost identical to the children of parents born in America.
Still, evidence that children of immigrants are healthier at birth and childhood have been met with enthusiasm among the medical community, experts said.
"They are poor, have less access to health insurance, less education, and discrimination faced many barriers, so if you have easier to go out and play, then that's fantastic," said Ku.
BY: CLAUDIA TORRENS