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ISD Scotland better information, better decisions, better health

Quality Measurement Framework

Healthy Birthweight

NHS National Services Scotland ISD Scotland & NHS National Services Scotland

Healthy Birthweight

Birthweight is an important indicator of foetal and neonatal health at both individual and population levels. There is significant evidence of the correlation between maternal health and social circumstances and birthweights which are outside the normal birthweight range.

Birthweight that is not within normal ranges also has a strong association with poor health outcomes in infancy, childhood and across the whole life course, including long term conditions such as diabetes and coronary heart disease. It thus has an impact on long-term health and the pressure of future demand on the wider NHS.

The data used in this indicator are produced by comparing the birthweights and gestations of births in Scottish hospitals with a set of standard tables based on UK-WHO Child Growth Standards (http://www.rcpch.ac.uk/child-health/research-projects/uk-who-growth-charts). A baby is considered to be of healthy birthweight (a weight appropriate for its gestational age) when it lies between the 5th and 95th centile for weight at its gestational age. Babies whose birthweight is above the 95th centile are considered 'large for gestational age', while those below the 5th centile are considered 'small for gestational age'.

Indicator Update

The percentage of babies born at a healthy birthweight (appropriate for gestational age) increased from 88.9% to 90.1% between 2001 and 2016. Over the same period, the proportion of babies born 'small for gestational age' decreased from 4.2% to 2.5%, while the proportion born 'large for gestational age' increased from 6.8% to 7.4%.

Source: latest results published November 2016 (Births in Scottish Hospitals, Year ending March 2016) by ISD

Work that should result in improvement in this indicator

The Scottish Government has launched a number of focussed frameworks and programmes which aim to strengthen the contribution the NHS makes to outcomes for children in their early years. These initiatives share the primary aim of improving maternal and child health outcomes and reducing inequalities in health outcomes between and across groups.  

Alongside this, the LDP standard to improve early access to ante-natal services was designed to improve a range of outcomes for women and their babies.  As a universal public service for pregnant women, NHS antenatal healthcare has a critical role to play in ensuring all children get the best start in life. This role encompasses a wide spectrum of NHS activity from promotion of health, screening and prevention, to clinical treatment and care.  Evidence indicates that there needs to be a greater focus on women from socially complex, high risk groups accessing and experiencing high quality antenatal health care.  We have evidence that those women who most need antenatal care are currently less likely to have timely access and or benefit from high quality antenatal health care.

Key priorities to achieve improvement include more effective linkage between health, housing, social work and other services, as well as working to reduce use of alcohol, drugs and smoking, and improve nutrition among pregnant women.

© ISD Scotland 2010
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