Low birthweight, due to either preterm delivery or IUGR, represents a major public health problem for developing and developed countries. In developed countries, access to adequate obstetrics and neonatal care prevents most of the negative short- and long-term outcomes associated with low birth-weight that are observed in developing countries in terms of both mortality and morbidity. Thus, public health efforts should be aimed at improving the level and accessibility of health care in developing countries. This is particularly important because most preventive strategies have been shown by clinical trials to be ineffective. Among nutritional interventions to prevent low birthweight, only balanced energy protein supplementation has been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of SGA and has been proposed to be provided to women in areas with a high prevalence of maternal undernutrition.

Research efforts should focus on the determination of the etiological factors responsible for preterm delivery and IUGR. Despite the considerable burden of disease related to these conditions, very little progress has been made in identifying their causes, thus limiting the possibility to implement effective preventive and primary care therapeutic interventions that would particularly benefit the populations of developing countries with limited access to secondary and tertiary health care.

See also: Infants: Nutritional Requirements; Feeding Problems. Low Birthweight and Preterm Infants:

Nutritional Management. Pregnancy: Role of Placenta in Nutrient Transfer; Nutrient Requirements; Safe Diet for Pregnancy; Dietary Guidelines and Safe Supplement Use; Pre-eclampsia and Diet. Supplementation: Dietary Supplements.

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