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Journal Issue: Low Birth Weight Volume 5 Number 1 Spring 1995

Low Birth Weight: Analysis and Recommendations
Patricia H. Shiono Richard E. Behrman


Each year more than four million families in the United States bring home from the hospital a healthy baby who has all of the potential for a full and productive life. The birth of a baby is a joyous event, and the baby's survival is taken for granted. But one family in 100 will suffer the loss of their child soon after birth. Why are these 40,000 babies dying each year? As Paneth discusses in his article, more than three-quarters of infant deaths are caused by babies being born too small or too early. The occurrence of these infant deaths is highly correlated with size at birth and length of gestation; the proportion of deaths increases with decreasing birth weight and gestation. Low birth weight is the term used to define infants who are born too small, and preterm birth is the term used to define infants who are born too soon.1 In 1991, 7% of all infants in the United States were born too small, and 11% were born too soon. This journal issue takes an in-depth look at what is known and what is not known about the major underlying cause of infant mortality and childhood morbidity—low birth weight.