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One size doesn’t fit all: Ethnic birth weight chart better for infant care

One size chart doesn’t fit all when it comes to evaluating birth weight and health outcomes of newborns.

A new study, recently published online by the , shows ethnicity-specific are better at identifying newborns who are small for gestational age (SGA), a classification associated with hypothermia, hypoglycemia, infection and admission to the neonatal intensive care unit.

“When we expect Chinese, South Asian and Caucasian babies to be the same size at birth, we risk misclassifying small but healthy Chinese and South Asian babies as small for gestational age,” says the study’s lead author Gillian Hanley, a post-doctoral fellow with UBC’s School of Population and Public Health (SPPH) and the Child & Family Research Institute (CFRI).

Hanley and , an SPPH professor and CFRI scientist, examined data from more than 100,000 newborns in Washington state against two birth-weight standards: a population-based used by most hospitals and one that accounted for the ethnicity of the newborns, developed by Janssen in 2007.

“We found a considerable number of babies classified as small for gestational age by the conventional birth were actually healthy babies,” says Hanley. “This leads to parental anxiety, unnecessary testing and increased health care costs.”

“Developing and implementing ethnicity-based standards can help better direct attention to those babies who need it the most,” Hanley adds.


Ethnicity-specific birth weight distributions improve identification of term newborns at risk for short-term morbidity, , PhD, Patricia A. Janssen, PhD, American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology published online 01 July 2013, doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2013.06.042

University of British Columbia