Millions of underweight infants are born each year. Because these babies run an increased risk of illness and death they need special care. Midwives and traditional birth attendants must be able to identify which newborns need special attention.
The Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) has developed a simple scale for midwives, nurses, and other birth attendants to help them identify babies with dangerously low birth weights. The scale, called BIRTHweight, is a stainless steel spring scale which is colour coded, inexpensive and portable. The scale is held by hand and a 100 gram cloth sling is suspended from it. If the small window on the scale has any yellow showing, the child weighs less than 2500 grams and needs special care. If the window is entirely blue, the child weighs more than 2500 grams. Weight less than 2500 grams is the international standard for low birth weight.
The scale is accurate to within 100 grams. In field trials in Egypt, Malawi, and Yemen, the scale was shown to be durable and well accepted by its users. Large orders of the scales and slings can be made directly from UNICEF by non government, government, and UN agencies for approximately US $4.50. The UNICEF address is: Supply Division, UNICEF, UNICEF Plads, DK 2100, Copenhagen, Denmark. Small orders for scales and instructions to make the slings can be coordinated through PATH offices.
This article was published with the aid of a grant from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Ottawa, Canada. It is adapted from 101 Technologies from the South for the South, 1992, IDRC, P.O. Box 8500, Ottawa, Canada K1G 3H9.
Program for Appropriate Technology in Health, (PATH)
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