Babies who weight 5. 5 pounds (2500grams) or less at birth are low babies with low birth weight. Babies weighing 3. 3 pounds (1500 grams) or less are Very low birth weight babies. There is a significant medical and social cost for low birth weight infants and preterm births. Low birth weight is a major predictor of infant mortality. Ethnic and cultural group’s disparities related to low birth weight infant and preterm infant are significantly disproportionate, affecting minority Americans.
Although infant morbidity can not be directly linked with low birth weight but it is a frequently used as a marker for poor health at birth because it amounts for the leading risk factor for infant morbidity and for subsequent mortality among the surviving infants. The extent of which ethnic and cultural disparities in low birth weight reflect socioeconomic inequalities, cigarette smoking during pregnancy, young maternal age and low educational achievements are also associated with low birth weights.
The hospital costs for low birth weight infants during the first year of life in 2001 totaled $5. 8 billion, representing forty-seven percent of all infant hospitalizations costs and twenty seven percent of all pediatric hospital costs. Even if the infant’s family has insurance, the co pay amount is significantly large, if we include cost of travel, lodging, food, time off from work and loss of productivity; it is very expensive and unaffordable for the society and the families. Pre term births increase a child risk for health and developmental problems.
Pre term births less than thirty seven weeks of gestation is associated with poor health and social/emotional functioning measured at preschool age, adolescence and young adulthood. Less than 29 weeks of gestation age infants are at risk of increased impaired brain function due to brain injury and disruptions in early brain development. Low birth weight is also linked to various problems in infants, including : chronic conditions such as respiratory problems, cerebral palsy, infections, above average use of health services, regular use of medications, limitations of activity and linked to have below average IQs.
I feel the support services and systems in my community for preterm infants and their families are inadequate because there is no attention is paid on enforcing the health education and promoting healthy living based on evidence and no research group has been set up to identify the root cause of the problems that is leading to low birth weights infants and preterm births. Aggressive public health education campaign should be initiated by the administration to make the public aware of the consequence of pre term birth and low birth infants.