Background: Access to reliable birth data (birthweight (BW) and gestational age (GA)) is essential for the identification of individuals who are at subsequent health risk.
Aims: This study aimed to explore the feasibility of retrospectively collecting birth data for schoolchildren from parental questionnaires (PQ) and general practitioners (GPs) in primary care clinics, in inner city neighbourhoods with high density of ethnic minority and disadvantaged populations.
Methods: Attempts were made to obtain birth data from parents and GPs for 2,171 London primary schoolchildren (34% White, 29% Black African origin, 25% South Asians, 12% Other) as part of a larger study of respiratory health.
Results: Information on BW and/or GA were obtained from parents for 2,052 (95%) children. Almost all parents (2,045) gave consent to access their children's health records held by GPs. On the basis of parental information, GPs of 1,785 children were successfully contacted, and GPs of 1,202 children responded. Birth data were retrieved for only 482 children (22% of 2,052). Missing birth data from GPs were associated with non-white ethnicity, non-UK born, English not the dominant language at home or socioeconomic disadvantage. Paired data were available in 376 children for BW and in 407 children for GA. No significant difference in BW or GA was observed between PQ and GP data, with <5% difference between sources regardless of normal or low birth weight, or term or preterm status.
Conclusions: Parental recall of birth data for primary schoolchildren yields high quality and rapid return of data, and it should be considered as a viable alternative in which there is limited access to birth records. It provides the potential to include children with an increased risk of health problems within epidemiological studies.