Nov 16, 2013

Action Report on pre-term births in India

The Indian Foundation for Premature Babies (IFPB) marks World Prematurity Day and the fight against preventable child deaths by launching the ‘Delivered Too Soon’ action report to raise awareness around pre-term births in India

Delhi, November 16 2013: Prematurity is a leading cause of neonatal mortality and morbidity in India. The WHO fact sheet (2012) states that world-wide, 15 million babies are born premature every year, and 1 million babies die annually from complications of prematurity. World Prematurity Day is dedicated annually to recognize the efforts of various organisations, bodies and individuals who work towards enhancing awareness around pre-term births. 

To mark this special day, the Indian Foundation for Premature Babies (IFPB) unveiled the first action report on preterm birth in India ‘Delivered Too Soon’ highlighting the Indian scenario of preterm births and India’s commitment towards improving the neo-natal health conditions. Dr. Syeda Hameed, Member Planning Commission, Dr. Rakesh Kumar, Joint Secretary ( RCH ), Dr. Vinod Paul, AIIMS, Dr. Lata Bhat, Head, Department of Neonatology, Fortis hospital,  and Dr. Neelam Kler, Head of Department of Neonatology, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, unveiled the report at Hotel Taj Vivanta. Many organizations working to prevent preterm births in India and globally i.e. World health organization, Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Still-births, SAVE THE CHILDREN, Ministry of Child Health & Family Welfare, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have contributed in this report. To commemorate this day IFPB had organized an exhibition of compelling pictures of preterm children at the hotel.

As per a WHO fact sheet (2012), India tops the list of 10 nations contributing to 60% of the world's premature deliveries. India has been striving to achieve Millennium Development Goal 4 to reduce the under-5 years of age child mortality, burden of premature birth which requires both focused attention and evidence based intervention.  The ‘Delivered Too Soon’ report is a multi-faceted study on the growth, gains and gaps in the Indian scenario.  The report will help in increasing awareness on the issue of preterm births by defining and addressing the health and economic consequences of preterm birth in India. It will be of particular interest to paediatricians, public health officials, policy makers and social science researchers.

Premature birth and its complications is irrefutably a major crisis that cannot be ignored and according to this report, India is the biggest contributor to the world’s prematurity load with almost 36 lakhs premature births each year. The report also raises concern about the financial burden on families to save a premature infant; the maximum burden is seen when the baby is between 28 to 36 weeks.

Dr. Neelam Kler from Indian Foundation for Premature Babies said, “Prematurity is the leading cause of infant deaths in India and yet not recognised as a serious matter. As prematurity is not considered a public health issue, its awareness levels are too low. This

report is the stepping stone towards building a healthy ecosystem for pre-term babies and mothers through awareness creation and sensitization.”

Dr. Lata Bhat from Indian Foundation for Premature Babies said, “The paradigm of premature deliveries in India is changing and it has become a disease of the marginalized as well at the affluent. Around 3 lakh preterms annually die due to complications in India. The most important intervention in this regard is birth spacing and treatment of maternal infections. Thus creating highest level of awareness on this issue is critical.”

Some key findings from Delivered Too Soon, the first-ever action report in India:

• Pre-term birth is on the rise in India for the last few years; India accounts for 23.6% of the global preterm births, out of which 13% are live preterm birthsPrematurity is a significant contributor to neonatal and infant mortality rates. The rate of pre-term birth in India is approximately 21% and is rising.

• The rise of preterm births in India is because of the following:

o   Increased frequency of multiple births due to assisted reproductive techniques (ART)

o   Young or advanced maternal age

o   Low maternal body mass index (BMI)

o   Short inter-pregnancy intervals, pre-existing non-communicable disease

o   Infections

o   Increasing psychological stress

 •  The -incidence of late preterm is rising in India. (Late preterm refers to infants who are born at 34 0/7 through 36 6/7 weeks gestation).

• India is one of the 3 nations in South Asia having the highest mortality gap between the richest and the poorest.  Some states in India like Goa , Kerala and Manipur have infant and neonatal mortalities similar to that of developed nations, indicating advanced care of premature babies

• Additionally, Stress is a major factor amongst the Indian working women as they seldom get adequate rest during pregnancy.

• Three-quarters of premature babies could be saved with current, cost-effective interventions, even without the availability of neonatal intensive care facilities. E.g. antenatal steroid injections, kangaroo mother care, antiseptic cream for the umbilical cord, and antibiotics to treat newborn infections.


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