I know that preterm birth can and does affect women of every race, ethnicity, religion, color, age, socioeconomic status and demographic. But until recently, I really only thought of prematurity as it pertains to the 500,000 plus births that occur in the U.S. each year. After previewing the March of Dimes World Prematurity Video presented at the Preemie Parent Alliance Summit in Chicago in September, I now see it in global terms. Each year, more than 15 million babies are born preterm around the world. While the parents in the video hailed from rich and poor countries all over the world, it was clear to me that the emotional pain of preterm birth is the same for us all. (Note: Some of the images in the video may be disturbing. I share it with you because I think it is important for us all to do our part to raise awareness of preterm birth across the globe and work to ensure the best outcomes for all babies.)
In May of this year, the first-ever national, regional and global estimates of preterm births were presented in Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth. This inspiring report is a joint effort of almost 50 international, regional and national organizations, led by the March of Dimes, The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, Save the Children and the World Health Organization in support of the Every Woman Every Child initiative, led by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Born Too Soon shows the extent to which preterm birth is on the rise in most countries, and is now the second leading cause of death globally for children under five, after pneumonia. It is believed that over 75% of the 1.1 million deaths due to preterm complications could be prevented if policy, programs and research proposed in the report are implemented around the world.
Upcoming Global Teleconference
The March of Dimes invites parents of preemies to participate in a global teleconference — Honoring Parent Stories for World Prematurity Awareness — on November 12, 2012 at 3:00 pm Eastern. The global teleconference will feature March of Dimes National Ambassador Shalini Wittstruck and other parents from around the world. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org by November 11 to receive the toll-free U.S. number and code along with the presentation.
Celebrating All Our Preemie Power Heroes
In celebration of World Prematurity Day, Hand to Hold will announce the winners of the 2012 Preemie Power Photo and Essay Contest on Saturday, November 17. This year’s contest features 187 photos of preemie and NICU babies of all ages representing 46 states and 5 Canadian provinces. To read their inspirational stories, visit www.preemiepower.org and see this year’s finalists!
May we all find time this month to give thanks for the medical advances afforded to babies born preterm in the U.S., mourn the loss of those who lost their battle despite these advances and do our part to increase awareness of the global epidemic of preterm birth.
Special thanks to Phyllis Williams-Thompson, Associate Director, Prematurity Campaign Domestic & Global Partnerships for the March of Dimes for her inspiring presentation at the Preemie Parent Alliance Summit and her daily work on behalf of parents of preemies around the world.
Born Too Soon Executive Summary Group. Writers Kinney, M.V., Howson, C.P, McDougall, L., & Lawn, J.E. Executive Summary for Born Too Soon: The global action report on preterm birth. March of Dimes, PMNCH, Save the Children, World Health Organization. 2012.