Birthweights and growth of infants in five Aboriginal communities
Article first published online: 26 SEP 2007
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
Volume 24, Issue 2, pages 124–135, April 2000
How to Cite
Smith, R. M., Smith, P. A., McKinnon, M. and Gracey, M. (2000), Birthweights and growth of infants in five Aboriginal communities. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 24: 124–135. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-842X.2000.tb00132.x
- Issue published online: 26 SEP 2007
- Article first published online: 26 SEP 2007
- Revision requested: November 1999, Accepted: January 2000
Objectives: To improve, by culturally appropriate means, birthweights and growth of children up to three years of age over 14 months in five Aboriginal communities in north-western Australia.
Methods: Frequent individual nutritional assessment of infants and children with counselling of mothers and carers and of pregnant women and the introduction of the Aboriginal-controlled Strong Women, Strong Babies, Strong Culture maternal support program. Outcomes compared with those in the same communities for the five years preceding intervention.
Results: By international standards, pre-intervention birthweights of full-term infants (37–42 weeks) were only moderately depressed and recovered to exceed standard weight-for-age within two weeks of birth. Growth of full-term infants slowed abruptly after six months. Prevalence and duration of breastfeeding were very high. Prevailing low average birthweight was chiefly attributable to a prevalence of pre-term birth approaching 20%. Intervention was not accompanied by any change in full-term birth weight but was associated with increased weight gain after six months. From 12 to 36 months growth rose by 30 g per month (p=0.001). Average birthweights of pre-term infants were <2,500 g and average weight-for-age did not improve during intervention.
Conclusions: Both low birthweight and a disproportionate part of intransigent failure to grow by Aboriginal infants were associated with pre-term birth. Depressed average growth of full-term infants appeared to respond to nutritional counselling accompanied by a community support program.
Implications: Investigation of the causes of the exceptionally high rate of Aboriginal pre-term birth in the region is urgently required.