No Measurable Change in Global Preterm Birth Rates

Across the world, preterm birth is one of the main risk factors for neonatal mortality among children younger than 5 years. Yet according to a new study, the international community has made few strides over the past decade when it comes to reducing the rates of preterm births and recording the related routine data.

“There has been no measurable change in preterm birth rates over the past decade at global level,” according to the authors. “Despite increasing facility birth rates and substantial focus on routine health data systems, there remain many missed opportunities to improve preterm birth data.”

The study, published on October 7 in The Lancet, was funded by the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation through grants awarded to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Building on the WHO’s last update on the topic, which was published in 2015, the researchers conducted an analysis that included 679 data points (222 million births) from January 1, 2010, to December 31, 2020, from 103 countries and areas. They pointed out that global data on preterm births must be systematically updated so that suitable public policies can be designed and implemented. Preterm birth rates were estimated by using a hierarchical Bayesian framework that accounted for data quality differences.

As the results show, preterm birth is not just a concern in low- and middle-income countries. Indeed, rates of 10% or higher occur in high-income countries, such as Greece and the United States. The situation, however, is worse in places with fewer resources. Around 65% of preterm births in 2020 occurred in sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia. The highest preterm birth rates were in Bangladesh (16.2%), Malawi (14.5%), and Pakistan (14.4%), whereas the lowest were in Serbia (3.8%), the Republic of Moldova (4%), and Kazakhstan (4.7%). Although Brazil’s rate, 11.1%, is above the overall average, its average annual rate of reduction between 2010 and 2020 was 0.7%.

Among those who have commented on the study is Anshu Banerjee, MD, PhD, director of the WHO Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Aging. He called for the adoption of strong and decisive measures to turn the situation around. “These numbers show an urgent need for serious investment in services available to support [preterm babies] and their families, as well as a greater focus on prevention — in particular, ensuring access to quality healthcare before and during every pregnancy.”

“Countries need to prioritize programmatic investments to prevent preterm birth and to ensure evidence-based quality care when preterm birth occurs,” wrote the study authors. “Investments in improving data quality are crucial so that preterm birth data can be improved and used for action and accountability processes.”

This article was translated from the Medscape Portuguese Edition.

Source: Read Full Article