Percentage of Underweight Babies Shoots Up to Its Highest in Four Decades in US

by Gopalan on  June 13, 2008 at 11:53 AM Child Health News
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 Percentage of Underweight Babies Shoots Up to Its Highest in Four Decades in US
The percentage of underweight babies has shot up to its highest in four decades in US.

Federal data showed that 8.2 percent of U.S. babies were born at low birth weight, a level not seen since 1968.

Those born at less than 5.5 pounds — are at greater risk of dying in infancy or experiencing long-term disabilities, it is pointed out.

Besides the number of children living in poverty has also gone up.

18 percent of U.S. children — 13.3 million of them — were living in poverty in 2006, up by 1 million children from the 17 percent rate in 2000.

The findings were released Thursday in the annual Kids Count report on the health and well-being of America's youth, which measures the states in 10 categories.

The state of Georgia ranks seventh from the bottom in delivering healthy infants and the figures indicate a reversal in the positive trends found in the late 1990s, said Laura Beavers, coordinator of the Kids Count project for the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation.

"Some of the indicators appear to be getting worse [in Georgia]," Beavers said, noting a rise in child poverty.

Not all the news was negative, including a 44 percent decline in the high school dropout rate, from 16 percent in 2000 to 9 percent in 2006. That's still 2 percentage points above the national average.

The drop wasn't as dramatic in child deaths — from 25 per 100,000 in 2000 to 22 per 100,000 in 2006 — though that figure accounted for Georgia's best national ranking: 27th.

Overall, the state ranked 40th, and its trends mirrored the nation's, with setbacks in some areas obscuring progress in others.

"Well-being indicators have largely gotten better for teens, and they've gotten worse for babies," Beavers said.

The report documented improvements in the child death rate, teen death rate, teen birth rate, high school dropout rate, and teens not in school and not working.

There was no change in the infant mortality rate, while four areas worsened: low-birth-weight babies, children living in homes with jobless or underemployed parents, children in poverty, and children in single-parent families.

Beavers noted that in many categories, the United States compares poorly with other developed countries. A recent study released by UNICEF ranked the United States second-worst out of 33 industrialized nations in a composite index on child well-being, and it was 29th in regard to the percentage of babies with low birth weights.

Dr. Alan Fleischman, medical director of the March of Dimes, said the increase in underweight newborns is closely linked to a rise in premature births.

He felt that the U.S. medical profession should be more rigorous in encouraging women to continue their pregnancies as close to term as feasible, and reduce the number of early, induced deliveries, often caesarian, that frequently produce underweight infants.

As for the poverty levels, Beavers said, "It's disconcerting, because between 2000 and 2006 the economy was doing pretty well." It could turn worse what with the current  economic downturn.

The report's data was based on the official poverty measure as determined by the Office of Management and Budget. Its 2006 poverty line was $20,444 for a family of two adults and two children, news agency AP reports.

Source: Medindia

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