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Global Study Reveals 1 Out Of 7 Babies Underweight At Birth

Around 20mn babies were born with weights below recommended levels around the world in 2015. It was an improvement against 2000 rates, but still not enough as per targeted goals. Researchers from WHO, LSHTM and UNICEF analyzed and surveyed 148 countries during 2000–2015. 20.5mn or 14.6% of all babies born during 2015 were underweight or less than 2500 gms, as against 22.9mn in 2000, as per findings published in LGH journal.

About 91% of these babies were born in middle- and low-income countries. 75% were born in Southern Asia and Africa. Almost 8% of all babies in the US had low weight at birth as opposed to 7.5% earlier. Western countries remained stuck at a 7% in this study. Weight at birth predicted a person’s health capabilities throughout his lifetime, said Professor Lawn, who is the director of LSHTM MARCCHC and lead author of this study.

Low weight can be due to restrictions in womb or premature birth. It can also happen in full-term deliveries, reported Dr. Onis. These babies carry the risk of adult onset medical conditions, developmental delays and stunted growth through their lifetime. In the US, premature birth is a leading factor of low weight at birth. High maternal age, maternal obesity rates, fertility treatments and cesarean sections were causes for this. However, places like Asia see a full-term delivery, but the fetus growth is restricted due to the absence of proper nutrition.

Reducing birth weight rates requires an understanding of these causes. In 2012, 195 countries promised to reduce their low birth weight rates by 25% by 2025. That is yet to materialize at the current speed and requires doubling efforts. To prevent this, every newborn must have a documented weight. Those at risk should be cared for. This data ought to push stakeholders in the right direction to eradicate this disorder in all countries, said Prof. Doherty of SAMRC.

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