Addressing Critical Knowledge Gaps in Newborn Health

Join the Global Movement to Tackle Preterm Birth

What do Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso and Stevie Wonder have in common?

Yes, they are all famous for shaping generations of artistic and scientific discoveries. They also all were born too soon, premature babies who began their lives fighting for survival.  More than 1 in every 10 babies around the world are born preterm, an estimated 15 million births per year. Sadly most of these babies don’t survive to become prominent leaders in thought and art. In fact, nearly 3 million babies do not live past their first month of life, with over a third of these deaths directly due to complications from prematurity.

Premature birth is the second leading cause of death among children under 5 years old, second only to pneumonia. Recent attention to this issue, in part due to the release of the first-ever national, regional and global estimates of preterm birth published in Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Births, has brought a spotlight on the urgent need for global change. Millions of families across the world are affected, a problem that is not confined solely to low-income countries. Both the United States and Brazil rank among the top 10 countries with the highest number of preterm births, although the greatest burden remains in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where 60% of preterm births occur. Only three countries - Croatia, Ecuador and Estonia - have reduced their rates in the past two decades, with most other countries having no change in rates, and some having an increase in preterm births.

Though progress has been slow, every day we hear and see stories of survival and hope. Across the US to Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa – families, communities and governments are gearing up to tackle prematurity, and to continue the momentum set out for newborn survival. Today, you can join the global movement.

On November 17, 2012 the world will mark the second annual World Prematurity Day, a day to highlight the biggest killer of newborn babies in the world, the stories of those who are affected, and the actions that everyone must take to prevent prematurity and improve care for premature babies. As members of the Born Too Soon multi-organizational partnership dedicated to promote action for preterm birth, Save the Children’s Saving Newborn Lives program, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH), the World Health Organization and March of Dimes invite you, your organization, friends and families, to get involved and make your voice heard. Here is how:

  1. Spread the word and get involved. Visit the World Prematurity Day Facebook community, and join the thousands of voices who have already begun to raise awareness of preterm birth.

  2. Be informed. Read Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Births and learn more about the numbers, evidence, and actions needed to prevent preterm birth and care for preterm babies.

  3. Join the #WorldPrematurityDay global Twitter relay chat on November 16th. Hosted by a variety of international partners and advocates worldwide, the chat will discuss the newest data, personal stories and ways in which to address preterm birth including solutions that can be applied in high-income as well as middle and low-resource settings.

  4. Tune back to the Healthy Newborn Network, where we will run a blog series leading up to, during and after World Prematurity Day. Experts from across the maternal, newborn and child health field will write about preterm birth as it relates to cross-cutting work including the MDGs, family planning, the UN Commission on Live Saving Commodities for Women and Children, and the Every Woman Every Child movement.

We have a real opportunity to accelerate action for newborns everywhere. Solutions like Kangaroo Mother Care and antenatal steroids to develop a premature baby’s lungs show drastic mortality reductions are possible, saving 450,000 and 400,000 lives per year respectively. Families around the globe are ready to make their voices heard, and governments have made promises to improve care where and when it is needed most.  With your support, the global movement will continue forward, ensuring all children can grow to be the next artists, scientists, academics, and leaders of our world.

This blog is part of a series on HNN that will lead to World Prematurity Day,  November 17, discussing preterm birth and highlighting the actions needed to prevent and reduce preterm birth, the leading cause of newborn deaths. Join us as we discover that everyone has a role to play. To get involved and learn more please visit www.facebook.com/WorldPrematurityDay. This piece was written by JoAnn Paradis and Mary Kinney

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