HEALTHY WEIGHT: Baby Oliver Finn James, pictured with parents Steve and Kath James, was 3.4kg when born at the Mater Hospital.
HEALTHY WEIGHT: Baby Oliver Finn James, pictured with parents Steve and Kath James, was 3.4kg when born at the Mater Hospital. Chris Ison Rokcbabyjames

Many Central Queensland babies born under weight

ON November 30, Rockhampton's Kath James and her husband Steve welcomed a happy, healthy, 3.4kg baby into the world.

Kath said little Oliver had been thriving ever since, after an incident-free pregnancy.

"(During pregnancy) I continued eating every three hours like I always do, pretty much just avoided what I was told to avoid and just generally stuck to the plans," she said.

"It was great to deliver a good healthy baby."

And according to data from the Queensland Health Needs Assessment, baby Oliver was one of the lucky ones.

"Low birth weights are high here," LiveWELL CQ chair Mick Shearer said.

"Kids of low birth weight really struggle... this conference is about getting people to think differently."

It was this issue, among many others, that Mr Shearer planned to address at the Better Together Conference next week, held to consider collaborative responses to social issues in CQ.

The region had reported a higher rate of low birth-weights (defined as less than 2.5kg) than Queensland, and a higher rate than Australia as a whole over a two-year period of investigation in 2010.

While more recent data wasn't available, the study said the average CQ low birth-weight rate was 7.3%, while Australia's was 6.5%.

Mr Shearer's concerns were yesterday backed up by leading expert Professor Roger Smith, from The University of Newcastle.

With diabetes, kidney failure and heart disease identified as some of the long-term medical outcomes of a low birth weight, the professor said there was a second, more unexpected consequence.

"Being born small is linked to poorer educational outcomes and poor education outcomes have a major impact on people's lives," he said.

"But it is about populations of babies, and not every small baby will be affected. Isaac Newton was born very small... there are plenty of exceptions to the rule."

Prof. Smith said while nutrition and conditions like pre-eclampsia did play a big role in reduced birth weight, smoking was a huge issue.

"Smoking is the biggest changeable cause of babies being born small," he said.

"If we are going to improve the health of Australia and Rockhampton, then improving the size of babies is an enormous step forward."



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