WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., OCT. 4, 2009 More than one million infants die each year because they are born too early, according to the just released White Paper, The Global and Regional Toll of Preterm Birth.
The new White Paper shows that in 2005, an estimated 13 million babies worldwide were born preterm -- defined as birth at less than 37 full weeks of gestation. That is almost 10 percent of total births worldwide. About one million deaths in the first month of life (or 28 percent of total newborn deaths) are attributable to preterm birth.
According to the White Paper, the highest preterm birth rates in the world are found in Africa, followed by North America (United States and Canada combined).
These data are being presented at the 4th International Conference on Birth Defects and Disabilities in the Developing World to be held in early October in New Delhi, India.
"Premature births are an enormous global problem that is exacting a huge toll emotionally, physically, and financially on families, medical systems and economies," says Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. "In the United States alone, the annual cost of caring for preterm babies and their associated health problems tops $26 billion annually.
"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," Dr. Howse adds.
An Uneven Global Problem
The new White Paper uses data published recently in The Bulletin of the World Health Organization (WHO). The March of Dimes says the WHO Bulletin figures are conservative counting only singleton preterm births, for example and likely underestimates the true magnitude of the worldwide crisis of preterm birth.
Worldwide, the preterm birth rate is estimated at 9.6 per
|Contact: Elizabeth Lynch|
March of Dimes Foundation