Nov. 2, about 150 nurses from across the state will attend a symposium on the global problem of premature birth, which affects about 15 million babies worldwide including nearly half a million in the United States alone.
Presented by the March of Dimes and the Northwest Illinois Perinatal Center at Rockford Memorial Hospital, the symposium encourages all attendees to join the global movement to prevent premature birth. The event also kicks off November as Prematurity Awareness Month nationwide. The event is open to the media and begins at 7:45 a.m. at the NIU Rockford Educational Center, 8500 E. State St., Rockford.
While recent data from the National Center for Health Statistics shows the lowest preterm birth rate in the U.S. since 2006, the country’s premature birth rate of 11.7 is still higher than dozens of developing countries, including Rwanda, Uzbekistan, China and Latvia. Premature births remain the leading cause of newborn deaths (babies born in the first four weeks of life). Many of the causes of preterm birth are still unknown despite continued research to learn more about this complex, multifactorial problem.
The keynote speaker is Dr. Christopher P. Howson, co-author of Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth, and vice president for Global Programs for the March of Dimes Foundation. The report features the first-recorded estimates of preterm birth rates by country, and is authored by a group of 45 international multi-disciplinary experts from 26 organizations and 11 countries. The report is written in support of all families who have been touched by preterm birth. According to Dr. Howson, “Preterm birth is a solvable problem. Prevention will be the key. We are now looking closely at what can be done before a woman gets pregnant to helop her have an optimal outcome.”
Following the keynote, the March of Dimes and local health care providers will also discuss a new initiative to help lower the rate of premature births: encouraging the healthcare community and women to avoid scheduling a delivery before 39 weeks of pregnancy if medically unnecessary. This is important because development of the brain, lungs and other organs occur during the last few weeks.
Currently, 10 hospitals in Illinois are participating in a quality improvement project developed by the March of Dimes to eliminate elective delivery of babies prior to 39 weeks. In Illinois, one in eight babies is born premature, which is roughly 21,168 babies every year.
The March of Dimes has set a goal of lowering the national preterm birth rate to 9.6 percent of all births by 2020. The volunteer healthy organization says this goal can be achieved by giving all women of childbearing age access to health care coverage, fully implementing proven interventions to reduce the risk of an early birth, such as not smoking during pregnancy, getting preconception and early prenatal care, and more.
To learn more about the March of Dimes prematurity campaign, visit: marchofdimes.com/prematurity. For local events during November Prematurity Month, visit marchofdimes.com/Illinois, or find them on Twitter.
Posted Oct. 31, 2012