13 million babies are born preterm, almost 10 percent of total births worldwide
SUNDAY, Oct. 4 (HealthDay News) -- An estimated 13 million infants worldwide are born premature each year and more than one million of them die within the first month of life, according to a report released Sunday.
Premature births account for 9.6 percent of total births and for 28 percent of newborn deaths, the data in a White Paper from the March of Dimes and other organizations found.
The highest rates of premature birth are in Africa, followed by North America (Canada and the United States combined).
"Premature births are an enormous global problem that is exacting a huge toll emotionally, physically and financially on families, medical systems and economies," Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, March of Dimes president, said in a news release.
In the United States alone, the annual cost of caring for preterm babies and their associated health problems is more than $26 billion a year.
"If world leaders are serious about reaching the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health, then strategies and funding for reducing death and disability related to preterm birth must receive priority," Howse said.
The March of Dimes' Global and Regional Toll of Preterm Birth report used data from the recently published Bulletin of the World Health Organization, which probably underestimates the extent of preterm birth worldwide, according to Howse.
More than 85 percent of the world's preterm births occur in Africa, where about 11.9 percent (four million babies a year) are born preterm. Rates in other regions are: 10.6 percent in North America; 9.1 percent in Asia; 8.1 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean; 6.4 percent in Oceania (Australia and New Zealand); and 6.2 percent in Europe.
In more affluent regions, 1,014,000 infants each year ar
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