Alarming preterm birth rates implicate Africa and the US

Back after a bout of an upper respiratory infection, I was surprised by the statistics of  preterm births.

More than one million infants die each year because they are born too early, according to the just released White Paper, The Global and Regional Toll of Preterm Birth.  As mentioned online,  Africa tops preterm birth rates around the world at 11.9 percent, followed by North America (10.6 percent) and Asia (9.1 percent), according to statistics recently published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organisation (WHO).  Not surprisingly Africa is in the lead but surprisingly the USA is second in line.

If the MDGs are to be realized, this is one area that will need to be addressed. In order to reduce by 2/3 childhood mortality, we will need to understand why the number of preterm births has increased and how we can improve neonatal care to improve survival of these fragile lives.

Interestingly, in North America, a rise in the number of pregnancies in women over age 35, and reproductive technologies,  have contributed to the increase in premature births, according to the WHO.

While little is known about the exact causes of pretermature births in the developing world, this article states “…malnutrition, coexisting with malaria, anemia, bacterial diseases and inadequate prenatal care are likely factors in the high preterm rates in Africa,” he said.

Preterm births are responsible for 27 percent of newborn deaths.

This brings me back to a prior blog post that seems even more relevant than ever, “Saving newborn lives can be simple.

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