Fifty State Chart Book

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4. Low Birthweight

Low birthweight refers to infants who weigh less than 2,500 grams at birth. Infants born at low birth weight are at higher risk than infants with healthy birth weight for physical and developmental delays that hinder development and school readiness. Low birthweight can be indicative of a larger public health problem that may include long-term maternal malnutrition, ill health and poor prenatal care.

What Can the Data Tell Us?

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Vital Statistics highlight the association between race/ethnicity and low birthweight (Table 10). This is true both at national and state levels. It is especially true for African-Americans, who in some states have rates of low birthweight double that of white, non-Hispanics. Understanding which populations have a disproportionate share of low birthweight infants helps health advocates target policies and programs to these populations. While not all low birthweights are preventable, Healthy People 2020 set a goal of achieving a rate of 5 percent and reducing existing disparities by race and ethnicity at least by half.

Table 10. Percent of births at low birthweight, U.S. and states, 2012