About half a million babies are born preterm in Europe every year – one baby in ten
And frighteningly, the number continues to grow: the available data provides evidence of increasing prevalence of preterm birth in the last ten years. Meanwhile, preterm infants represent Europe’s largest child patient group. In many cases, the children, as well as their families, need to cope with physical, psychological, emotional and financial challenges. In addition, the costs to healthcare systems and the wider economy are huge.
Despite the considerable size and continuous growth of this group and the impact on the health of future generations, maternal and newborn health still rank low on national health agendas. Very few countries in Europe are taking serious steps to address prematurity. So far only Portugal and the UK have actually developed and implemented targeted policies aimed at improving neonatal health.
Maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity rates vary widely between the countries of Europe and there is a lack of harmonized guidelines or standards to improve access to and quality of health care for mothers and newborns. We should be investing more in research, preventive care, diagnostics and treatment, effective follow-up and continuing care to protect and promote the health of the smallest and most vulnerable members of our societies.
Raising awareness of preterm birth is the first step to defeating it
Preterm birth rates and the differences in morbidity and mortality rates of mothers and newborns could be significantly reduced and lowered through increased public awareness and targeted information to parents, as well as improved prevention and treatment and care during hospitalisation but also with effective follow-up and continuing care after discharge at home. It is time for EU and national policy-makers to address this challenge by developing and implementing targeted strategies and policy measures.
SOCKS FOR LIFE – Artists raise their voices for maternal and newborn health
The initiative SOCKS FOR LIFE was created by the European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants in close collaboration with parents groups and is strongly supported by healthcare professionals and other stakeholders. It aims at raising awareness, informing the public and reaching out to local, national and European policy makers and key-opinion leaders through art work, art activities, exhibitions and the publication thereof.
It started nearly one year ago, when the famous painter René Böll donated his impressive painting "cillin" for the creation of the SOCKS FOR LIFE key visual. Since then, internationally renowned artists of all kinds have joined to create original artwork for the campaign. A variety of the collected art objects are presented in the news blog on the SOCKS FOR LIFE website.
Launch of SOCKS FOR LIFE in the summer of 2013: Famous painter René Böll donated the painting for the SOCKS FOR LIFE key visual to EFCNI’s Chairwoman Silke Mader
SOCKS FOR LIFE art exhibition in the European Parliament in the week of 7 – 11 April 2014
A selection of the collected artwork will now be shown for the first time in the European Parliament in Brussels. In addition to the exceptional art exhibition, visitors will receive valuable information on the state of maternal and newborn health and in particular preterm birth in Europe. The exhibition aims to give a clear signal to politicians on the urgency to tackle the growing burden of prematurity.
Host and patron of the art exhibition SOCKS FOR LIFE, Member of the European Parliament Dr. Peter Liese, invites to an opening of the exhibition on 7 April 2014 at 6.30 p.m. He is strongly supported by his colleague Dr. Angelika Niebler and the EFCNI. Keynote speakers will be the Vice President of the European Parliament, Mr. Rainer Wieland, Prof. Dr. Luc Zimmermann, President of the European Society for Paediatric Research, Eleni Vavouraki from the Greek patient group Ilitominon and EFCNI’s Chairwoman Silke Mader.
Following the exhibition SOCKS FOR LIFE in the European Parliament, the exhibition objects will continue their journey from the EU Parliament to Lübeck, Germany and finally to Munich.
Every single vote counts – Call to Action for Newborn Health and the promise for Standards of Care for Newborn Health
As highlight of the exhibition opening ceremony on 7 April, “Little Heroes” will hand over the collected votes for the European Call to Action for Newborn Health to the Vice President of the European Parliament, Rainer Wieland. The Call to Action was developed by EFCNI together with parents and healthcare representatives and summarizes 10 points to improve maternal and newborn health, and in particular preterm birth. The online voting to support the call in all European languages is open till end of March 2014 on http://www.enemenemini.eu/ .
As a direct consequence of the Call to Action for Newborn Health, patients and healthcare representatives will officially declare to collaboratively develop European Standards of Care for Newborn Health.
Politicians in turn need to promote and support the creation of the necessary political framework within their countries to implement these standards step by step, based on the particular situation in their country and the specific challenges of the respective population, social and health systems:
Europe as a whole needs to acknowledge the extent of the growing challenge for national healthcare and social systems and to recognize the impact that the different policies and practices across Europe have on growing social and health inequalities. Reducing health in equalities in Europe is a clear mandate of the European Union (EU), and prematurity is one area where the EU represented by its different institutions could make a significant impact.
The EU has a key role to play in promoting a coordinated approach to ensure equal access to care and high standards of health and healthcare across the EU countries, including the establishment of comprehensive data collection systems, supporting research and the exchange of best practice as well as the effective implementation of policy measures at the national, regional and local level.
European Members of Parliament should use their extensive network to support a coordinated approach between European and national level to work collaboratively with all stakeholders to drive changes within each country. To ensure the best start in life for every baby, independently from the place of birth.
On this occasion, we would like to sincerely thank all contributors, partners and supporters of SOCKS FOR LIFE for their outstanding engagement. Only their support and contribution made this initiative so successful. Our special thanks go to the participating artists, the parents organisations, the professionals, the company Dräger, the agency Joke, and the Members of the European Parliament, Dr. Angelika Niebler and Dr. Peter Liese, who make the exhibition in the European Parliament possible.