Trends on Babies with Low Birth Weight

The study from the researchers of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO) published in The Lancet Global Health makes the following observations:

  • 20.5 million babies (14.6%) were found to have been born with low birth weight (less than 2.5 kg) in 2015.
  • The prevalence in 2015 was lower than the 17.5% (22.9 million babies with low birth weight) in 2000.
  • More than 90% of the low-weight babies in 2015 were born in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Across high-income countries in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand, there has been virtually no progress in reducing low birth weight rates since 2000. But the prevalence is low in most of these countries
  • The lowest rates of low birth weight in 2015 were estimated in Sweden (2.4%). This compares to around 7% in some high-income countries including the USA (8%), the UK (7%), Australia (6.5%), and New Zealand (5.7%).
  • Southern Asian and Sub-Saharan African regions have made the fastest progress in reducing the numbers of low birth weight babies.
  • Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, have registered a yearly decline in low birth weight prevalence of 1.4% and 1.1%, respectively, between 2000 and 2015.
  • The annual decline must be more than double to meet the global target of a 30% reduction between 2012 and 2025 including in high-income countries.

Trends in India

  • India is one of the 47 countries (including 40 low- and middle-income countries that account for almost a quarter of all births worldwide) which had insufficient data.
  • Since the estimated prevalence of low birth weight in South Asia has decreased from 32.3% in 2000 to 26.4% in 2015, it is estimated that India, in view of its large population, will have made an important contribution to this decline. India has made progress in improving newborn care by building 834 newborn care units in the last decade.

The Indian Statistical Institute had reported that nearly 20% of newborns have low birth weight in India in 2011 and as per the officials from the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the prevalence of low birth weight was between 15% and 20%.

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