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Children with low birth weight, a public health problem

Experts of the World Health Organization (WHO) emphasise that low birth weight continues to be an important indicator for public health worldwide and is associated to a series of consequences in the short and long term, such as morbidity and mortality, fetal and neonatal, deficiencies in the cognitive development and increased risk of chronic diseases in adult life. The international body, which defines “low birth weight” as a birth weight of less than 2,500 grams, States in its report that in Argentina, 753,600 live babies were born in 2015, of which 55,400 had low birth weight (7.3 per cent). According to the records carried out by the Ministry of Health and Social Development of the nation in our country, the percentages of children born with these characteristics were 7.3 percent in 2013; 7.1 percent in 2014 and 2015; 7.2 percent in 2016 and 7.3 percent in 2017. The health authorities explain that because the incidence of home delivery in our country’s statistics is very low because 99.9 percent of children are born in hospitals or sanatoriums, it can be said that the records on this subject are very reliable. Based on the certainty provided by these data, measures should be taken in the health system to reduce low birth weight rates. It is believed that some variables such as the incidence of caesarean sections, or teenage pregnancy, are two factors that are directly related to the birth of low-weight children. With regard to the practice of caesarean sections, official figures show that such interventions in our country occur in 45 per cent of births taking place in the public health system, while in the private sector this indicator reaches 67 per cent; whereas the World Health Organization considers that the ideal rate of caesarean sections should range from 15 to 20 per cent of births.

On the other hand, WHO points out that, globally, premature birth is the most frequent direct cause of neonatal mortality. In this regard, an agency report indicates that 1.1 million neonates die worldwide each year from complications associated with premature birth. It is important, then, that public policies be promoted that are aimed at reducing the percentage of low-weight newborns throughout the country and, at the same time, ensure that the mother has access to adequate health care in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. Then, when birth occurs, it is necessary for both the mother and the family environment to understand the fundamental importance of breastfeeding for the low-weight newborn. Different studies confirm that all those decisions that are aimed at improving the feeding of infants with low birth weight are more likely to improve your state of health and well-being immediate and long-term, and have a considerable impact on the levels of neonatal and infant mortality in the population. In addition, research by specialists revealed that if breastfeeding begins on the first day of the child’s life, there is a significantly greater reduction in the risk of neonatal mortality than if it begins more than 24 hours after birth.

Finally, it should be remembered that breastfeeding provides enormous benefits to the health of your child, because breast milk contains all the nutrients that the little needs during the first six months of life, and protects against diarrhoea and common childhood illnesses, such as pneumonia; to which must be added to the long-term benefits for the health of the mother and child, including reducing the risk of overweight and obesity in childhood and adolescence.

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