Each year, some 15 million babies in the world, more than one in 10 births, are born too early, according to the just released report Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth.
More than one million of those babies die shortly after birth; countless others suffer some type of lifelong physical, neurological, or educational disability, often at great cost to families and society.
An estimated two-thirds to three-quarters of those preterm babies who die could survive without expensive care if a few simple, proven, and inexpensive treatments and preventions were available worldwide, according to more than 100 experts who contributed to the report.
Born Too Soon is the first-ever report to document the rate of preterm birth with comparable country-by-country data from around the world, and to identify priority policy and program actions that can substantially reduce the toll of this tragic problem.
Of the 11 countries with preterm birth rates over 15 percent, all but two are in Sub-Saharan Africa. But preterm birth is not just a problem for poor countries. High preterm birth rates are also seen in many high-income countries such as the United States. Preterm babies are born at a higher rate in the U.S. than in 127 other countries of the world, including many poorer nations. The U.S. preterm birth rate of 12.0 per 100 live births is tied with the rates of Somalia, Thailand, and Turkey.
Although we’ve recently seen a four year improvement in the U.S. preterm birth rate, nearly half a million babies still are born too soon each year. We have to ensure that more moms have healthy, full-term pregnancies and full-term babies. Everyone has a role to play – we must work together to make preterm birth a priority in the U.S. and on the global health agenda.
Born Too Soon is a joint project of the March of Dimes Foundation, the World Health Organization, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, and Saving Newborn Lives/Save the Children. It also offers commitments to fight preterm birth by almost 50 United Nations agencies, universities, and nonprofit organizations.
To find out more and see an interactive map showing the preterm birth rates in all countries in the report, go to marchofdimes.com/borntoosoon. Join the March of Dimes on Twitter Thursday, May 3rd at 1 pm EDT in a #borntoosoon global relay twitterchat.