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NZ Very Low Birthweight Study

Mapping The Road Ahead


The NZ VLBW study is looking at health and developmental outcomes in young adulthood for New Zealand children born in 1986 who were born very early (premature) or of very low birthweight (less than 1,500 grams).

Since the 1980s changes in medical technology have resulted in dramatic improvements in the survival of children born very early or very small. However, there have been ongoing concerns that premature infants have increased risks of some health problems and higher rates of disability and developmental problems than other children.

Currently, around the world there is considerable interest in the long term outcomes for these infants, as substantial numbers of premature and low birthweight infants are now growing into adulthood.

Current Project

The purpose of this study is to obtain information on the long term outcomes of prematurity or very low birthweight for New Zealand children. We are comparing health, developmental and life course outcomes at age 26/27 years for two groups of young adults:

  • Participants - survivors of the group of children born in New Zealand in 1986 and weighing less than 1500 grams at birth
  • Controls -  a comparison series of young adults who were born in New Zealand in 1986 but who were not born premature or of very low birthweight


  • There are just over 300 survivors from a total of 413 children who were born in New Zealand in 1986 weighing less than 1,500 grams at birth
  • At 7–8 years, with parents’ permission, these children were involved in a study looking at developmental outcomes for very low birthweight infants
  • At 23–24 years, they participated in an interview looking at each individual's circumstances and life experiences
  • We are now contacting all participants again and inviting them to participate in a further study looking at health issues. This will involve a number of medical investigations, tests of ability and functioning


  • The control group took part in the study at 23–24 years of age
  • They were interviewed by a research nurse on matters relating to circumstances and life experiences
  • Controls have been identified from the electoral roll as possible candidates for enrolment in the study 
  • We would like to invite more young adults to participate in this research. They need to have been born in New Zealand in 1986, not born early (premature) or of very low birthweight


Darlow, B. A., Lui, K., Kusuda, S., Reichman, B., Håkansson, S., Bassler, D., … on behalf of the International Network for Evaluating Outcomes of Neonates (iNeo). (2017). International variations and trends in the treatment for retinopathy of prematurity. British Journal of Ophthalmology. Advance online publication

Prickett, T. C. R., Darlow, B. A., Troughton, R. W., Cameron, V. A., Elliott, J. M., Martin, J., Horwood, L. J., & Espiner, E. A. (2017). New insights into cardiac and vascular natriuretic peptides: Findings from young adults born with very low birth weight. Clinical Chemistry, 64(2).   doi: 10.1373/clinchem.2017.280354

For further information please contact

Julia Martin (Project Manager)
Department of Paediatrics, University of Otago, Christchurch
PO Box 4345, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand
Tel +

Physical Address:
Level 3, Terrace House, 4 Oxford Terrace, Christchurch, New Zealand


Professor Brian Darlow
Department of Paediatrics, University of Otago, Christchurch 
PO Box 4345, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand 

Tel +64 3 364 0640 (pager 5038)