Effects on the Community

Impact on the Health Care System

  • LBW babies use more health care resources than babies born at term and with a healthy birth weight
    • LBW babies may be hospitalized in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) immediately after birth
    • LBW babies often require extra medical and nursing care as infants and children
  • It is estimated that the lifetime costs for each preterm, low birthweight baby is about $675,000 (1995 data)
  • In Canada, there are ~20,000 LBW babies born each year - this translates to a tremendous financial burden on the health
    care system
  • LBW babies (especially multiples) have an increased risk of long term disabilities including: cerebral palsy, behaviour disorders, learning disabilities and may require assistance with mobility (wheelchairs, walkers and/or crutches), communication (hearing aids, cochlear implants, sign language) and education

Impact on the Education System

  • LBW children may require educational support as a result of learning disabilities - this support may include special education classes, teacher's aides and speech/language development services


Impact on the Social Service System


Impact on the Economy

  • Women with a "high-risk" pregnancy may leave work early
  • Women with a preterm or LBW baby may delay their return to work after parental leave - or they may not return to the workforce
  • Time away from work for parents of LBW babies contributes to the already staggering cost of lost workplace productivity - over 5 billion dollars annually. (Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, 1995 - courtesy of the Canadian Mental Health Association)


Low birth weight rates have been dropping in the last 10 years.
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