Despite advancements in health care, there's been an uptick in underweight births across the U.S., according to new data from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
No group is at higher risk than African-American mothers and their babies, just how much depends on where the mothers live.
"In terms of low birth weight, we are seeing a trend that it is getting worse across the nation," said Julie Willems Van Dijk, director of County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. "For black mothers and babies, it is particularly troublesome."
Low birth weight can indicate ongoing health problems for infants and their mothers. Perhaps more ominously, it can foreshadow developmental problems in children for years to come.
"A child born at low birth weight is set up for a lifetime of potential health risks, not just physical health, but we are talking impulse control and cognitive ability. You need these things to survive in a high risk area," said Sarah Martin, deputy director of the Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation teamed up with the University of Wisconsin to examine health outcomes by county in the U.S.
This year, the data showed about a 2 percent uptick from 2014 to 2016 in babies born underweight — less than 5.5 pounds. While no state was completely free from counties plagued by premature or underweight births, there was a noticeable concentration of low-ranking counties in the Southwest, Southeast, Mississippi Delta and Appalachian regions.