08 Oct 2006
A child born in Japan has a chance of living 43 years longer than a child born in Sierra Leone.
Inequalities and low birthweight – a global problem
Across the world, babies born to disadvantaged families are more likely to be low birthweight (weighing less than 2500 grams).
Low birthweight is associated with a greatly increased risk of death in the first year of life as well as serious illness and lifelong disability. Longitudinal studies show that children who were low birthweight experience a greater risk of developing learning and behavioural difficulties and have lower educational attainment and socio-economic status as adults.
Low birthweight is therefore a critical aspect of child poverty.
Inequalities and low birthweight – an Irish problem
The Working Group on the National Anti-Poverty Strategy (NAPS) and Health has included low birthweight as one of three core targets to reduce health inequalities in Ireland.
This target states that the gap in low birthweight rates between children from the lowest and the highest socio-economic groups should be reduced by 10% from the 2001 level, by 2007.
Low birthweight is also included in Ireland’s National Set of Child Well-being Indicators. These indicators are being monitored on an on-going basis by the National Children’s Office.
The Department of Health and Children and the National Childrens Office commissioned the Institute to produce a report that
- assessed the effect of socio-economic status on low birthweight using data from theNational Perinatal Reporting System
- considered these findings in the light of the NAPS target
- explored the relationship between socio-economic status and low birthweight
- reviewed the evidence for what works in reducing inequalities in birthweight
This report found that babies born to parents who are unemployed were at over twice the risk of being low birthweight in 1999, when compared to those born to parents recorded as higher professionals. Teenage and unmarried mothers also had a significantly increased risk of having a low birthweight baby in that year.
An intersectoral workshop was held in December 2005 to assist in the development of recommendations.
The full report, including the findings from the workshop, can be downloaded below.