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Low Birthweight in Newborns


Indicator  description

The proportion of live born babies with a birthweight less than 2,500 grams for ACT resident women.

What do we measure?

The birthweight of all babies born in the ACT.

Why is this important?

A baby's birthweight is a key indicator of health status.5 Low birthweight babies have a greater risk of poor health and dying during the first year of life, require a longer period of hospitalisation after birth and are more likely to develop significant disabilities.6

Policy Context

The proportion of low birthweight babies in the ACT is consistent with the national rates between 2011 and 2015. ACT Health refers expectant women considered as high risk to specialised clinics at Canberra's Centenary Hospital for Women and Children - where a multidisciplinary approach is taken to screening for foetal growth, smoking cessation and diet control - to decrease the likelihood of low-birthweight deliveries.

The birthweight for babies of women who smoked during pregnancy is significantly lower than for babies of women who did not smoke and the number of cigarettes smoked per day also negatively impacted on birthweight.7

ACT Health continues to strengthen relationships with the Aboriginal Health Service (Winnunga Nimmityjah) to better understand issues associated with Indigenous women accessing good antenatal care.

How is the ACT Progressing?

Source: ACT Health, Epidemiology Section, Maternal Perinatal Data Collection, unpublished data. AIHW, National Perinatal Data Collection, published data.

The proportion of low birthweight babies born to ACT resident women in 2015 was 6.3 per cent, not significantly different to the national rate of 6.5 per cent. The proportion of live born ACT babies with a low birthweight has fluctuated over the period 2006 and 2011.

The incidence of low birthweight babies in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is reported as higher than the national average. Whilst this would represent a low number of infants overall, it assists ACT Health to further investigate the causes of low birthweight within this population.

Table 4: Proportion (%) of live born babies with low birthweight by ACT maternal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status, 2004-06 to 2013-15

  

2004-06

2007-09

2010-12

2013-15

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

ACT

14.4

13.0

11.7

14.8

Australia

12.9

12.3

12.1

12.0

Non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

ACT

5.9

5.1

5.8

6.1

Australia

6.1

5.9

6.0

6.2

Source: ACT Health, Epidemiology Section, Maternal Perinatal Data Collection, unpublished data. AIHW, National Perinatal Data Collection, published data.

Note Includes live born babies born in the ACT to ACT resident women. The incidence of low birthweight babies in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is reported as higher than the national average. Whilst this would represent a low number of infants overall, it assists ACT Health to further investigate the causes of low birthweight within this population.

5 Helder L, Zhichao Z, Parker M, Jahan S and Chambers GM 2014, Australia’s months and babies 2012, Perinatal statistics series no. 30,
cat. no. PER 69, AIHW, Canberra.
6 Goldenberg RL and Culhane JF 2007, ‘Low birthweight in the United States’, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 85: 5845-90S.
7 HealthStats ACT, Focus on smoking in pregnancy, In Pregnancy