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United States
Low Birthweight
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Low Birthweight is the percentage of live births of infants weighing less than 2,500 grams (5 pounds, 8 ounces). The 2013 ranks are based on 2011 birth certificates from the National Vital Statistics System.

Babies born with low birthweight are often born preterm or have inadequate growth for other reasons. Low birthweight may occur as a result of inadequate clinical care in the prenatal period. Through regular clinical visits, the health of the mother can be assessed, health risks can be identified, and steps can be taken to improve the mother’s health and her risk for preterm birth. Low birthweight is associated with many characteristics of the mother such as smoking status, nutritional status, and psychosocial problems. In addition to being an indicator of the mother’s health and clinical care, low birthweight is itself a potential cause of future health problems for the baby. Low birthweight babies are more likely than babies of normal weight to have health problems during the newborn period. Serious medical problems are most common in babies born at very low birthweight and include respiratory distress syndrome; bleeding in the brain; patent ductus arteriosus, a heart problem common in premature babies; necrotizing enterocolitis, an intestinal problem that usually develops 2 to 3 weeks after birth; and retinopathy of prematurity, an abnormal growth of blood vessels in the eye that can lead to vision loss.[1][2] There may also be a connection between many chronic diseases in adulthood and low birthweight, including type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease.[3] Successful prevention strategies are effective by:[4]

  • Expanding access to medical and dental services and taking a lifespan approach to health care;
  • Focusing intensively on smoking prevention and cessation;
  • Ensuring that pregnant women get adequate nutrition;
  • Addressing demographic, social, and environmental risk factors.

The incidence of low birthweight varies from a low of 6.0 percent of live births in Alaska to a high of more than 10 percent in Mississippi and Louisiana. Nationally, 8.1 percent of live births are born weighing less than 2,500 grams. Healthy People 2020 objectives include reducing low birthweight to 7.8 percent of live births.

[1] Lemons JA, Bauer CR, Oh W, et al. Very low birth weight outcomes of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Neonatal Research Network, January 1995 through December 1996. NICHD Neonatal Research Network. Pediatrics. 2001;107(1).

[2] Als H. Individualized developmental care for the very low-birth-weight preterm infant. JAMA. 1994;272(11):853.

[3] Barker DJP. Fetal origins of adult disease: Strength of effects and biological basis. Int J Epidemiol. 2002;31(6):1235.

[4] Shore R, Shore B. Preventing low birthweight. KIDS COUNT indicator brief. Annie E. Casey Foundation. 2009 http://www.aecf.org/KnowledgeCenter/Publications.aspx?pubguid=%7B950E85EE-C2B4-466E-AA20-AE2010384A17%7D


USA Low Birthweight (1993-2013) see more
  • Percentage of infants weighing less than 2500 grams (5 pounds, 8 ounces) at birth.

The measures tracked by America's Health Rankings are those actions that can affect the future health of the population. For a state to improve the health of its population, efforts must focus on these measures, these determinants of health.


2011 2011
State Changes Over Time Rank Value Rank Value Take Action
Alabama graph 48 10.6 View Actions
Alaska graph 1 5.9 View Actions
Arizona graph 16 7.1 View Actions
Arkansas graph 44 9.2 View Actions
California graph 11 6.8 View Actions
Colorado graph 39 8.9 View Actions
Connecticut graph 21 8.0 View Actions
Delaware graph 35 8.5 View Actions
Florida graph 38 8.8 View Actions
Georgia graph 46 9.5 View Actions
Hawaii graph 23 8.1 View Actions
Idaho graph 7 6.5 View Actions
Illinois graph 31 8.4 View Actions
Indiana graph 30 8.3 View Actions
Iowa graph 8 6.6 View Actions
Kansas graph 17 7.2 View Actions
Kentucky graph 42 9.2 View Actions
Louisiana graph 49 10.8 View Actions
Maine graph 9 6.7 View Actions
Maryland graph 43 9.2 View Actions
Massachusetts graph 19 7.7 View Actions
Michigan graph 36 8.6 View Actions
Minnesota graph 4 6.4 View Actions
Mississippi graph 50 11.8 View Actions
Missouri graph 24 8.1 View Actions
Montana graph 18 7.4 View Actions
Nebraska graph 15 7.0 View Actions
Nevada graph 22 8.0 View Actions
New Hampshire graph 6 6.5 View Actions
New Jersey graph 34 8.4 View Actions
New Mexico graph 33 8.4 View Actions
New York graph 25 8.2 View Actions
North Carolina graph 40 9.1 View Actions
North Dakota graph 12 6.8 View Actions
Ohio graph 37 8.6 View Actions
Oklahoma graph 26 8.3 View Actions
Oregon graph 2 6.1 View Actions
Pennsylvania graph 27 8.3 View Actions
Rhode Island graph 20 7.9 View Actions
South Carolina graph 47 9.9 View Actions
South Dakota graph 5 6.5 View Actions
Tennessee graph 41 9.2 View Actions
Texas graph 32 8.4 View Actions
Utah graph 10 6.8 View Actions
Vermont graph 13 7.0 View Actions
Virginia graph 29 8.3 View Actions
Washington graph 3 6.3 View Actions
West Virginia graph 45 9.5 View Actions
Wisconsin graph 14 7.0 View Actions
Wyoming graph 28 8.3 View Actions
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