Script 38.4


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.

Information Sources

Further information
Program for Appropriate Technology in Health, (PATH)

  • 4 Nickerson Street
    Seattle, Washington, U.S.A. 98109
    Tel.: (206) 285 3500, Fax: (206) 285 6619
    Telex: 4740049 PATH UI
    E mail:

Other PATH locations:

  • 8/F Arwan Building
    1339 Pracharat 1 Road
    Bangkok 10800, Thailand
    Tel.: (662) 587 2001, Fax: (662) 587 5125
  • P.O. Box 76634
    Ole Odume Road, #30
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Tel.:(2542) 566714
    Fax:(2542) 566714
  • Tifa Building
    11 Floor, Suite 1102
    J1. Kuningan Barat No. 26
    Jakarta 12710, Indonesia
    Tel.:(6221) 5200737
    Fax:(6221) 520 0621
    Telex: 79662851 TIFA IA
  • Thomas Jefferson Cultural Center Building
    395 Sen. Gil. J. Puyat Ave.
    Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines
    Tel.: (63 2)895 3201
    Fax: (63 2)899 5561