A preterm birth prevention program led by The University of Western Australia has had success in reducing the rate of early birth in Western Australia.
The UWA-led research, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, revealed that the rate of preterm birth had been lowered by nearly eight per cent and was the lowest it had been in the past six years.
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 years of age.
“Premature birth affects one in 12 Western Australian pregnancies (approximately 3000 births per year), 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.
“Those born at the earliest gestational ages may suffer from severe problems such as cerebral palsy, developmental delay or blindness. For those born at a later gestation, even approaching full-term, there may be behavioural and learning problems.”
In November 2014, the Women and Infants Research Foundation, King Edward Memorial Hospital, the WA Department of Health and the UWA School of Women’s and Infants’ Health, launched the Western Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Initiative, ‘The Whole Nine Months’.
The state-wide program aimed to lower the rate of preterm birth in WA by 35 per cent over the next five years.
Professor Newnham said the initiative had three components, including an outreach program which provided onsite education about new clinical guidelines to health care professionals throughout the state, a public health campaign via print and social media targeting women and their families and a dedicated preterm birth prevention clinic at KEMH for referral of high-risk cases.
Professor Newnham will discuss the preterm birth project when he delivers the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences “Dean’s Distinguished Lecture” at 12.30 pm on Tuesday 13 December at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research.