The World Health Organization (WHO) defines prematurity as babies born before 37 weeks from the first day of the last menstrual period. Each year, nearly 500,000 babies are premature, or preemies. That's 1 of every 8 infants born in the United States. Premature babies may have more health problems and may need to stay in the hospital longer than babies born later. They also may have long-term health problems that can affect their whole lives.
"Today, one in every nine U.S. infants is born preterm. Due to concerted efforts by the March of Dimes and our partners, this number has gone down for the past six consecutive years, but it is still too high. Prematurity can lead to a host of adverse health consequences for these babies and place a terrible strain on their families. In addition, preterm birth carries a significant cost to businesses and our economy. The average premature birth costs 12 times as much as a healthy birth. The PREEMIE Reauthorization Act will sustain the vital federal investment in promoting healthy pregnancies, healthy infants, and healthy families."
Preterm delivery can happen to any pregnant woman; in many cases, the cause of preterm birth is unknown. Preterm birth is the leading cause of neonatal death, and those babies who survive are more likely to suffer from intellectual and physical disabilities. In addition to its human, emotional, and financial impact on families, preterm birth places a tremendous economic burden on the nation. A 2006 report by the Institute of Medicine found the cost associated with preterm birth in the United States was $26.2 billion annually, or $51,600 per infant born preterm. Employers, private insurers and individuals bear approximately half of the costs of health care for these infants, and another 40 percent is paid by Medicaid.
S. 252 was endorsed and strongly supported by a wide range of organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, and the National Association of City and County Health Officers, and more.*
The original PREEMIE Act (P.L. 109-450) brought the first-ever national focus to prematurity prevention. The Surgeon General's Conference on the Prevention of Preterm Birth required by the Act generated a public-private agenda to spur innovative research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and support evidence-based interventions to prevent preterm birth. The PREEMIE Reauthorization Act reauthorizes critical federal research, education and intervention activities related to preterm birth and infant mortality.
Other endorsing organizations include American Association on Health and Disability, American Thoracic Society, American College of Nurse-Midwives, American Organization of Nurse Executives, American Public Health Association, Association of Clinicians for the Underserved, Association of Public Health Nurses, Centering Healthcare Institute, Children's Hospital Association, Council of Women's and Infants' Specialty Hospitals, First Candle/SIDS Alliance, Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth, National Association of Neonatal Nurses, National Association of Neonatal Nurse Practitioners, National Assembly on School-Based Health Care, Preeclampsia Foundation, RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, and Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.
The March of Dimes is a national voluntary health agency whose volunteers and staff work to improve the health of infants and children by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. Founded in 1938, the March of Dimes funds programs of research, community services, education and advocacy. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org