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KWIC Indicator Narrative

Low Birthweight and Premature Births (Three-Year Average)

Data Provider: NYS Department of Health


Related Indicators:

  • Births-Low Birthweight Births Mothers all Ages [view data]
  • Births-Low Birthweight Births Mothers 10-19 years [view data]
  • Births-Premature Births Mother all Ages [view data]
  • Births-Premature Births Mother 10-19 yrs [view data]

Life Area:

Physical and Emotional Health


Infants weighing less than 2,500 grams (5.5 pounds) at birth are considered to be low birthweight. The low birthweight rate is the number of low birthweight births per 100 live births for which a birthweight is known. This rate is presented as a percentage for all age groups and the age group 10 through 19 years.

Infants born with less than 37 weeks gestation are premature births. The premature birth rate is the number of premature births per 100 live births for which gestation is known. This rate is presented as a percentage for women of all ages and the age group 10 through 19 years.


Low birthweight is a major cause of infant mortality and increases an infant's chances for dying in infancy. Low birthweight infants, especially infants born to teen mothers, are at risk for health problems such as blindness, deafness, mental retardation, mental illness, and cerebral palsy (Alexander, 2004). As the birthweight decreases, children have a greater likelihood of these outcomes (Hack, Klein, & Taylor, 1995). Ten percent of all health care costs for children can be attributed to low birthweight (Lewit et al., 1995).

Preterm delivery underlies most low birthweight births. While the etiology of preterm birth remains unknown, several factors are associated with preterm and low birthweight births. Lifestyle behaviors - such as cigarette smoking, insufficient weight gain or nutritional intake during pregnancy and use of other drugs - are known risk factors. Socioeconomic disadvantage is also closely related to low birthweight. Mothers who are young, have less than a high school education and are not married are at the greatest risk of low socioeconomic status and delivering low birthweight babies (Chomitz, Cheung & Lieberman, 1995).

Healthy People 2010 objectives call for a national reduction in the incidence of low birthweight to no more than 5.0 percent of live births by year 2010 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000). The New York State Public Health Council identified healthy births as a priority area for public health action and set an objective to reduce low birthweight births to no more than 5.5 percent by 2006 (New York State Public Health Council, 1996).


  • In 2012-2014, the percentage of low birthweight births was less than one percentage point higher in New York City (8.2%) than in Rest of State (7.6%).
  • Among births to women in the 10 to 19 age group, the rates of low birthweight were also less than one percentage point different: 10 percent in New York City and 9.1 percent in Rest of State. Both areas decreased by 0.2 percentage point from their rates in 2011-2013.
  • Premature births accounted for 10.8 percent of all births in New York State in 2012-2014. The New York City rate and the Rest of State rate were 10.8 and 10.9 respectively.
  • Among mothers ages 10 to 19, 12.6 percent gave birth prematurely in 2012-2014 in New York State. The rate in New York City (12.8 percent) was slightly higher than the rate for the state and for the Rest of State (12.5 percent).


Alexander, M.D. (2004). Child Health: Birth Outcomes and Infant Mortality. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health.

Chomitz, V., L. Cheung and E. Lieberman. (1995). "The role of lifestyle in preventing low birthweight." The Future of Children. 5(1):121-138.

Hack, M., N. Klein and H. Taylor. (1995). "Long-term developmental outcomes of low birthweight Infants." The Future of Children. 5(1):176-196.

Lewit, E., L. Baker, H. Corman, and P. Shiono. (1995). "The direct cost of low birthweight." The Future of Children.5(1):35-56.

New York State Public Health Council. (1996). Communities Working for a Healthier New York. Albany, NY: New York State Public Health Council.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2000). Healthy People 2010 (Conference Edition in Two Volumes). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

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