National Premature Infant Health Coalition: Making a Difference During Prematurity Awareness Month and Throughout the Year
November 15th, 2013
The maternal and infant health field has made immense strides in prematurity prevention over the last decade. It is invigorating to be a part of, but it was also urgent that we prioritized it. Preterm birth is the leading cause of newborn death in the United States. Babies born prematurely are at a high risk for medical complications, and many of them have health and developmental challenges extending well beyond the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), into childhood and throughout their lives. The U.S. preterm birth rate is among the highest in developed nations, peaking at 12.8 percent in 2006.[i]
As a passionate public health professional and new mom, that number motivates me. Having a baby changed my worldview and perspective, and I know that’s the case for all parents. Often, I ask myself: What can I do to support other families? How can we collaborate to improve health outcomes and quality of care? I am continually inspired by the work each of you do to elicit change. The National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition’s (HMHB’s) prematurity program—the National Premature Infant Health Coalition (NPIHC)—offers an opportunity for all of us to connect in an ever-changing field, mutually supporting and promoting efforts to improve the health and quality of life of preemies and their families.
Substantial research now provides us with insight on the U.S.’s elevated premature birth rate, including the role of elective induction prior to 39 completed weeks of pregnancy. Thanks to our friends working hard on the 39+ weeks campaign (March of Dimes), Go the Full 40 (Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses), Healthy Babies President’s Challenge (Association of State and Territorial Health Officials), and others, we have increased awareness nationally and made strides toward reducing the preterm birth rate; and it has helped. March of Dimes’ newly released annual Premature Birth Report Card highlighted a 15-year-low in U.S. prematurity, with a drop to 11.5 percent in 2012.[ii]
Equally exciting and right on cue for Prematurity Awareness Month, we now have new guidelines to match our knowledge. In a joint Committee Opinion issued just a few weeks ago, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine redefined “term pregnancy” and the parameters of preterm birth. The new Committee Opinion replaces “term” with a series of more specific labels: “early term,” “full term,” “late term,” and “post-term.”
Through evolving guidance and increased tools for prevention, HMHB remains committed to those children who continue to be born preterm and their families who have increased needs for services and resources, and are at risk of financial and emotional hardship. We know the trauma of this experience for parents who may suddenly find themselves grieving, in the NICU, and/or living with the consequences of a preterm birth throughout a lifetime. And HMHB isn’t the only one. We recognize the breadth of organizations and dedicated professionals serving preemie needs, and it is our job to convene them.
NPIHC brings together and serves organizations, parents, clinicians, and industry leaders working on preterm birth and associated outcomes. Initiated in 2005 as a group of professionals working for preemies, the program has since grown into a broader community that includes parents committed to education, support, and advocacy. Today the Coalition brings together passionate preemie parents, multidisciplinary leaders of national and community-based movements, nurses, social workers, neonatologists, and more—all working together to focus on equal access to a continuum of quality care, education, and policy. At HMHB, we are continually motivated to serve our partners, thanks to those dedicated to improving outcomes for children born too small and too soon. As a working mother of a 1-year-old, I am continually inspired by the dedication of preemie parents and professionals alike.
I urge you to get involved, too! Here are resources to tap into:
- Sign up for NPIHC’s widely distributed monthly e-newsletter, Preemie Matters, rich with news about the latest science, events, and resources.
- Learn about quarterly webinars and annual events (they’re free!) as an opportunity for learning and networking.
- Gather and connect with professionals and parents on the NPIHC Facebook page, where you can also learn about medical information and important news and events.
- Join live social media chats to discuss the complicated issues preemie families face, and to discuss where we can address needs and fill gaps.
Let us know how we can help. The field is changing, and we want to support you with effective resources, information, and tools to help as we work together to change the world—one baby, one family at a time.