NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 19, 2005

Extremely low-birth-weight (ELBW) babies are more likely than normal-birth-weight (NBW) babies to grow up with chronic health conditions, limited academic skills and poor motor skills, among other challenges, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Maureen Hack and researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland compared ELBW children born at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital to NBW children over an eight-year period and found:

  • Some 16 percent of ELBW children had neurosensory impairments, including cerebral palsy, deafness and blindness, while the NBW children had none.
  • About 21 percent of ELBW children had asthma requiring therapy, compared to just 9 percent of NBW children.
  • Even when excluding children with neurosensory impairments, 57 percent of ELBW children at least one functional limitation (such as difficulty seeing, hearing, speaking, communicating or inability to socialize), compared to 20 percent NBW children.
  • While 38 percent of ELBW children had IQs of less than 85, compared to 14 percent of NBW children.

In 2002, ELBW babies (weighing less than 1,000 grams) accounted to 22,845 live births in the United States. Of those births, 70 percent survived, underscoring the need for resources to manage the long-term health and education of ELBW children.

Sources: Maureen Hack, et al., "Chronic Conditions, Functional Limitations and Special Health Care Needs of School-aged Children Born with Extremely Low-Birth-Weight in the 1990s," and Jon E. Tyson and Saroj Saigal, "Outcomes for Extremely Low-Birth-Weight Infants," Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 294, No. 3.

For study abstract:


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