Are Children of Moderately Low Birth Weight at Increased Risk for Poor Health?

Recent research on health risks associated with low birth weight has focused on very low birth weight as opposed to moderately low birth weight (MLBW) children. This study asks whether MLBW children also experience ongoing vulnerability to poor health or whether their rates of morbidity are comparable to the rates for the general population.

The authors analyzed data on 7,817 children, aged 0 to 12 years, in a national multipurpose health survey conducted in 2002. For most of the included health measures the proportion in poor health was significantly greater in the MLBW group than in the normal birth weight (NBW) group, even after controlling for sociodemographic characteristics. Moderately low birth weight children were significantly more likely than normal birth weight children to be identified as having a special health care need, a chronic condition, a learning disability, attention-deficit disorder or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. MLBW children were not significantly more likely than NBW children to have a hospitalization in the past year, other behavioral disorders, minor health conditions or acute illnesses.

The authors emphasize the need for heightened vigilance in monitoring and intervening with MLBW children. They suggest that more research is needed regarding subgroups of MLBW children, when different kinds of health problems can be recognized, and additional treatments and interventions for these infants.