Public health approach to the study of mental retardation

Am J Ment Retard. 2008 Mar;113(2):102-16. doi: 10.1352/0895-8017(2008)113[102:PHATTS]2.0.CO;2.


We applied a public health approach to the study of mental retardation by providing a basic descriptive epidemiological analysis using a large statewide linked birth and public school record database (N = 327,831). Sociodemographic factors played a key role across all levels of mental retardation. Birthweight less than 1000 g was associated with the highest individual-level risk, but the impact varied considerably, depending on maternal educational level. Low maternal education was associated with the largest effects at the population level for mild and moderate/severe mental retardation. Focusing exclusively on specific biomedical causes is of little use in developing public health plans; a broader biosocial perspective reflecting the interactive complexity of the risk factors comprising the various etiological patterns is needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Birth Certificates
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Florida
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intellectual Disability / epidemiology*
  • Intellectual Disability / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Mothers / education
  • Public Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Students / statistics & numerical data