Meditations on birth weight: is it better to reduce the variance or increase the mean?

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A conceptual model is presented here in which the birth weight distribution is decomposed into a distribution of target weights and a distribution of perturbations from the target. The target weight is the adaptive goal of fetal development. In the simplest model, perinatal mortality is independent of variation in target weight and determined solely by the magnitude of the perturbation of birth weight from the target. In this model, mortality risk is concentrated in the tails of the birth weight distribution. A difference between populations in their distributions of target weights will be associated with a corresponding shift in their curves of weight-specific risk, without any difference between the populations in overall risk. In this model, risk would be reduced by decreasing the variance of the distribution of perturbations. The model is discussed in the context of the so-called "paradoxes of low birth weight."


Haig, DavidengCambridge, Mass.2003/07/05 05:00Epidemiology. 2003 Jul;14(4):490-2.

Last updated on 01/26/2015