Neonatal technology, perinatal survival, social consequences, and the perinatal paradox

Am J Public Health. 1995 Jul;85(7):909-13. doi: 10.2105/ajph.85.7.909.


Exogenous surfactant therapy for premature infants with respiratory distress syndrome has had a significant impact on infant mortality and on some complications of prematurity. Yet the total number of low-birthweight infants has not declined, resulting in a high-risk population who would require surfactant therapy and long-term child care. Surviving low-birthweight infants (despite surfactant therapy) remain at risk for the consequences of premature birth, such as neurosensory impairment, cerebral palsy, and chronic lung disease. In addition, because of the close association between poverty and low birthweight, surviving premature infants are at increased risk for the new morbidities such as violence, homelessness, child abuse and neglect, and addictive drug use. A goal should be to reduce the risk of being born with a low birthweight, rather than having to treat the consequences of premature gestation. Despite the marvelous advances that permit us to treat respiratory distress syndrome, the continuing high low-birthweight rate places a significant strain on our health care system. The goal should be redirected to identifying large population-based efforts to reduce the number of low-birthweight infants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Infant Mortality*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Medical Laboratory Science / trends*
  • Neonatology / trends*
  • Perinatology / trends*
  • Social Class*
  • United States / epidemiology