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Small vulnerable newborns: a new conceptual framework

Published 9th May 2023

On May 9th 2023, at the 2023 International Maternal Newborn Health Conference in Cape Town, South Africa, the Small Vulnerable Newborns Consortium was launched, alongside The Lancet's Series and BJOG's Special Issue.   

We applaud this initiative which strives to bring together the three conditions of preterm, small for gestational age (SGA), and low birthweight (LBW) in order to present a unified front in the fight towards every newborn reaching their highest attainable standard of health.

The Lancet SVN

Between 2014 and 2016, the INTERGROWTH-21st consortium published the first international newborn and preterm standards. We welcome with great enthusiasm the use of our standards to strengthen the small vulnerable newborns conceptual framework, and its use by the large and diverse consortium of scientists, practitioners, policymakers, and other stakeholders that developed and produced this framework.

Until the past decade, comparable multicountry estimates were impeded by the absence of an international standard for newborn size at birth according to gestational age and sex, but a standard is now available as provided in the INTERGROWTH-21st project. These standards are becoming widely used and we applied them in our analyses given the need for international comparisons. In the past, observed differences in human growth were attributed to biological differences leading to descriptive population-specific charts. However, evidence shows similarities in the growth trajectories in healthy, optimally nourished populations across different geographical contexts worldwide, giving a scientific basis for international, prescriptive growth charts.
Lawn JE, Ohuma EO, Bradley E, et al. Small babies, big risks: global estimates of prevalence and mortality for vulnerable newborns to accelerate change and improve counting, The Lancet, May 2023