Providing the first-ever national, regional and global estimates of preterm birth, the report shows the extent to which it is on the rise in most countries, and is now the second leading cause of death globally for children under five, after pneumonia.
The report is a joint effort of almost 50 international, regional and national organisations, 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 effort, led by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Addressing the issue is an urgent priority for reaching Millennium Development Goal 4, calling for the reduction of child deaths by two-thirds by 2015. This report shows that rapid change is possible and identifies priority actions for everyone.
Hannah Blencowe, Research Fellow in the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “For the first time we have been able to estimate the number of premature babies and to break it down by country.
“This was a major undertaking and involved collecting data from almost 100 countries and developing complex statistical models.
“The report makes a crucial call for action on prevention and care of preterm babies worldwide. If preterm birth is not addressed, global progress in child survival and health to 2015 and beyond cannot be achieved.”
Dr Blencowe and colleagues from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine led the writing of Chapter 2 of the report ’15 million preterm births: Priorities for action based on national, regional and global estimates’, which provides background information on defining and measuring preterm births and presents the country preterm birth rate estimates.
The School has a strategic long-term commitment to research in this area through the MARCH Centre for Maternal, Reproductive and Child Health and will continue to improve the data and evidence base and to advance and evaluate innovative solutions for the poorest women and babies. LSHTM will work with partners to increase the numbers and capacity of scientists and institutions in the most affected countries.
(Image: Baby feet. Credit: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/John Ahern)
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine