First estimates of global low birth weight burden


  • Priscilla Lynch
  • Univadis Medical News
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An estimated 20.5 million babies were born with a low birth weight (

The findings by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine are published in the Lancet Global Health.

More than 80 per cent of the world’s 2.5 million newborns who die annually are of low birth weight, the paper notes, with survivors at greater risk of developmental and physical ill health.

Global nutrition targets set at the World Health Assembly in 2012 include a 30 per cent reduction in low birth weight prevalence between 2012 and 2025.

To chart progress, researchers collated 1,447 country-years of birth weight data (281 million births) from 148 of 195 UN member states (47 countries had no data meeting inclusion criteria).

The estimated worldwide low birth weight prevalence in 2015 was 14.6 per cent (uncertainty range [UR] 12.4-17.1), compared with 17.5 per cent (UR 14.1-21.3) in 2000 (average annual reduction rate 1.23%).

In 2015, 91 per cent of low birth weight babies were born in low- and middle-income countries, mainly southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.