A team of child health experts from the University’s School of Medicine are taking the unprecedented step of contacting over 26,000 families in all parts of Wales with children born either preterm or full-term, to try and gain a better picture of their health.
“In Wales, there are about thirty five thousand babies born each year and from these about two and a half thousand are born prematurely,” said Professor Sailesh Kotecha, who is leading the research alongside Dr Martin Edwards from the School of Medicine’s Department of Child Health.
“There has been a lot of research demonstrating the negative effects that extreme premature birth can have on the lung function of children, but there’s limited data on the lung function of moderately preterm born children, especially as they grow older.
“We are therefore asking families for their help by telling us more about the breathing and health related problems of the child and also ask about the child’s development and learning.
“This will help them establish if children born only moderately prematurely need to be followed more closely during childhood than has occurred until now,” he added.
The researchers will be sending questionnaires to families with children born between 1st January 2003 and 31st December 2011 who were born either preterm or full term in Wales.
The team wants to find out if babies who were born prematurely – both extremely and moderately – in Wales have symptoms such as cough, wheezing, chest infections or hospital infections when compared to similarly aged children who were born on time.
Dr Edwards said: “This is an enormous task but it is very important to establish if children who are born prematurely even by a few weeks have ongoing breathing or developmental problems when they grow up.”
The team hope their results will help guide doctors and other health workers by indicating whether children born moderately prematurely need to be closely followed up and if treatments already available should be started early, especially if the children have increased breathing symptoms.
Professor Kotecha added: “Children are not routinely followed up in our clinics but our work is suggesting that they may need to be followed up more closely than we have so far.
“I have no doubt that the parents and their children will be very happy to participate in this important research; we would like to thank them all well in advance for hopefully agreeing to take part.”
Anyone who receives the questionnaire and would like further information can contact Professor Kotecha or Dr Edwards on 029 20 74 3375 or by email: [email protected].