Health Program lowers rate of premature births

Program lowers rate of premature births

The rate of premature birth in Western Australia has dropped to its lowest level in six years, thanks to a preterm birth prevention program led by The University of Western Australia.

Nearly 200 fewer cases of preterm birth have occurred since the program began.

Professor John Newnham, Head of UWA’s School of Women’s and Infants’ Health, said preterm birth was the single greatest cause of death and disability in children under five.

“Premature birth affects one in 12 Western Australian pregnancies and in Aboriginal women the incidence is one in seven,” Professor Newnham said.

“As a result of modern obstetric and newborn care, many children now survive preterm birth but for others however, there may be lifelong disability.

Babies born very early may suffer from severe problems such as cerebral palsy, developmental delay or blindness.

“Even approaching full-term, there may be behavioural and learning problems,” Professor Newnham said.

The initiative has three components, including an outreach program which provided onsite education about new clinical guidelines to health care professionals, a public health campaign targeting women and their families and a dedicated preterm birth prevention clinic at King Edward Memorial Hospital for referral of high-risk cases.

The state-wide program, launched in November 2014, aims to lower the rate of preterm birth in WA by 35 per cent over five years.

Read more about the Western Australian program, here. Story credit: University of Western Australia newsroom.

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