Born Too Soon: A Global Action Report on Preterm Birth

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A report released today, Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth, features the first-ever estimates of preterm birth rates by country. The report, coordinated by the March of Dimes, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, Save the Children and the World Health Organization, shows that preterm birth is now the leading cause of newborn death around the world.


The report makes the case for why preterm birth matters–and how important it is that the global health community pay more focused attention to the issue.

Urgent action is needed to address the estimated 15 million babies born too soon, especially as preterm birth rates are increasing each year. This is essential in order to progress on the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for child survival by 2015 and beyond, since 40% of under-five deaths are in newborns, and it will also give added value to maternal health (MDG 5) investments. For babies who survive, there is an increased risk of disability, which exacts a heavy load on families and health systems…


Learn more about why preterm birth matters.


The report goes on to detail the scope of the problem.

Over 60% of preterm births occur in Africa and South Asia. The 10 countries with the highest numbers include Brazil, the United States, India and Nigeria, demonstrating that preterm birth is truly a global problem. Of the 11 countries with preterm birth rates of over 15%, all but two are in sub-Saharan Africa. In the poorest countries, on average, 12% of babies are born too soon compared with 9% in higher-income countries. Within countries, poorer families are at higher risk…


Learn more about where and when preterm births are occurring.


The report also outlines how preterm birth can be addressed along the continuum of care–starting with interventions that meet the health needs of women before they even become pregnant,  the needs of women during pregnancy and childbirth, as well as the health needs of newborns.

Preconception care has, until recently, been a weak link in the continuum of care. Providing care to women and couples before and between pregnancies (interconception
care) improves the chances of mothers and babies being healthy, and awareness is growing. Preconception care may be defined as “any intervention provided to women and couples of childbearing age, regardless of pregnancy status or desire, before pregnancy, to improve health outcomes for women, newborns and children” (Bhutta et al., 2011a)…


Learn more about care before and between pregnancies, care during pregnancy and childbirth, and care of the preterm baby.


The report wraps up with a detailed call to action that outlines next steps for the global health community–calling on program implementers and researchers alike, health professionals working all along the continuum of care–to consider how their work might contribute to reducing the burden of babies who are born too soon.

All partners are invited to join this global effort for preterm birth, which is linked closely to the health and care of women and girls, as well as to child survival and global development. Much is being accomplished by individual partners, and each has a unique role to play. By pooling our efforts collaboratively and transparently, with each organization playing to its strengths, our shared goal, as epitomized in Every Woman Every Child, can be realized — a day when pregnancies are wanted and safe, women survive, babies everywhere get a healthy start in life, and children thrive…


Read the action plan.


For more information about the report, click here. Download the full report.


Join the Twitter chat on preterm birth tomorrow, Thursday, May 3rd from 9 am to 4pm EDT. The chat will be led by the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH), Save the Children, the United Nations Foundation (UNF), March of Dimes, the Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth (GAPPS) and the Healthy Newborn Network (HNN)– and will bring together experts, professionals, advocates, and parents in a conversation around preterm birth. Hashtag: #BornTooSoon