Effect of birthweight measurement quality improvement on low birthweight prevalence in rural Ethiopia

Estifanos Baye, Firehiwot Workneh Abate, Michelle Eglovitch, Fisseha Shiferie, Ingrid E. Olson, Tigest Shifraw, Workagegnehu Tarekegn Kidane, Kalkidan Yibeltal, Sitota Tsegaye, Mulatu Melese Derebe, Sheila Isanaka, Blair J. Wylie, Rose L. Molina, Grace J. Chan, Amare Worku, Luke C. Mullany, Alemayehu Worku, Yemane Berhane, Anne C.C. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Low birthweight (LBW) (< 2500 g) is a significant determinant of infant morbidity and mortality worldwide. In low-income settings, the quality of birthweight data suffers from measurement and recording errors, inconsistent data reporting systems, and missing data from non-facility births. This paper describes birthweight data quality and the prevalence of LBW before and after implementation of a birthweight quality improvement (QI) initiative in Amhara region, Ethiopia. Methods: A comparative pre-post study was performed in selected rural health facilities located in West Gojjam and South Gondar zones. At baseline, a retrospective review of delivery records from February to May 2018 was performed in 14 health centers to collect birthweight data. A birthweight QI initiative was introduced in August 2019, which included provision of high-quality digital infant weight scales (precision 5 g), routine calibration, training in birth weighing and data recording, and routine field supervision. After the QI implementation, birthweight data were prospectively collected from late August to early September 2019, and December 2019 to June 2020. Data quality, as measured by heaping (weights at exact multiples of 500 g) and rounding to the nearest 100 g, and the prevalence of LBW were calculated before and after QI implementation. Results: We retrospectively reviewed 1383 delivery records before the QI implementation and prospectively measured 1371 newborn weights after QI implementation. Heaping was most frequently observed at 3000 g and declined from 26% pre-initiative to 6.7% post-initiative. Heaping at 2500 g decreased from 5.4% pre-QI to 2.2% post-QI. The percentage of rounding to the nearest 100 g was reduced from 100% pre-initiative to 36.5% post-initiative. Before the QI initiative, the prevalence of recognized LBW was 2.2% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.5–3.1) and after the QI initiative increased to 11.7% (95% CI: 10.1–13.5). Conclusions: A QI intervention can improve the quality of birthweight measurements, and data measurement quality may substantially affect estimates of LBW prevalence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number35
JournalPopulation Health Metrics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Birthweight heaping
  • Data quality improvement initiative
  • Delivery registers
  • Ethiopia
  • Low birthweight

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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