[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 6-Nov-2012
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Contact: Casey Calamusa
Casey.Calamusa@seattlechildrens.org
206-884-1014
Seattle Children's

Combating a crisis: Global burden of preterm birth can be reduced if critical actions are taken

New surveys of researchers and funders reveal a lack of consensus regarding researching and developing interventions to prevent prematurity and stillbirth, according to an article published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology ahead of World Prematurity Day on November 17.

Authored by Michael G. Gravett, MD, scientific director of the Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth (GAPPS), an initiative of Seattle Children's, and Craig E. Rubens, MD, PhD, executive director of GAPPS, the article outlines significant opportunities to enhance research into pregnancy complications and develop solutions to prevent prematurity and stillbirth, which combined take the lives of 4 million babies every year.

"One of the main observations from the technical team was that current research funding is fragmented and uncoordinated, lacking central leadership," the authors write in A framework for strategic investments in research to reduce the global burden of preterm birth. "Funders do not understand where the field is going."

Gravett and Rubens surveyed researchers and funders and found that both parties are equally uncertain about research and development projects that need to be undertaken, and many funders are hard-pressed to support research on the complex problems of pregnancy and childbirth given competing priorities. This lack of consensus provides an opportunity to engage with funders and researchers to recognize the importance of understanding healthy pregnancies and the consequences of adverse pregnancy outcomes.

The article proposes that a strategic alliance of funders, researchers, nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, and others could organize a set of grand challenges centered on pregnancy and childbirth that could yield a substantial improvement in the development and delivery of new and much more effective interventions, even in low-resource settings.

The authors note: "Pregnancy remains one of the least explored aspects of human biology, creating a tremendous opportunity. Long-term funding commitments for research could advance discovery science and the development of interventions targeted at pregnancy and early life and impact maternal and newborn health around the world."

Preterm birth and stillbirth are among the greatest health burdens associated with pregnancy and childbirth. Fifteen million babies are born preterm each year, causing about 1 million deaths annually and lifelong problems for many survivors; 3 million stillbirths also occur annually. Worldwide, the number of women and children who die during pregnancy and childbirth exceeds the total number of births in the United States. Even if all current interventions were universally applied, the authors estimate that the preterm birthrate would drop by less than 20 percent.

Based on their interviews, the authors compiled a set of recommendations that could greatly improve the visibility of research on pregnancy, childbirth, and early life, and mobilize funders to increase investments leading to the discovery, development, and delivery of low-cost and high-impact interventions to prevent preterm birth and stillbirth.

Toward making every pregnancy a healthy pregnancy:

Key considerations in developing a framework for a global approach to reduce preterm birth and stillbirth:

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Seattle Children's

Consistently ranked as one of the best children's hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Children's serves as the pediatric and adolescent academic medical referral center for the largest landmass of any children's hospital in the country (Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho). For more than 100 years, Children's has been delivering superior patient care and advancing new treatments through pediatric research. Children's serves as the primary teaching, clinical and research site for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The hospital works in partnership with Seattle Children's Research Institute and Seattle Children's Hospital Foundation. Together they are Seattle Children's, known for setting new standards in superior patient care for more than 100 years. For more information visit http://www.seattlechildrens.org.

GAPPS

The Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth (GAPPS), an initiative of Seattle Children's, leads a collaborative, global effort to increase awareness and accelerate innovative research and interventions that will improve maternal, newborn and child health outcomes around the world.



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