On Nov. 27th, President Barack Obama signed into law S. 252, the PREEMIE Reauthorization Act, a bill to reauthorize federal research, education and intervention activities related to preterm birth and infant mortality.
“The PREEMIE Act represents the federal government’s commitment to reducing the devastating toll of preterm birth,” stated Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, President of the March of Dimes. “By signing this bill into law, President Obama has enabled vital research and education on the prevention of prematurity to continue. The March of Dimes is deeply grateful to him, as well as the authors of the PREEMIE Act – Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ) – for their tireless efforts to ensure that no baby is born too soon.
“Today, one in every nine U.S. infants is born preterm. Due to concerted efforts by the March of Dimes and our partners, this number has gone down for the past six consecutive years, but it is still too high. Prematurity can lead to a host of adverse health consequences for these babies and place a terrible strain on their families. In addition, preterm birth carries a significant cost to businesses and our economy. The average premature birth costs 12 times as much as a healthy birth. The PREEMIE Reauthorization Act will sustain the vital federal investment in promoting healthy pregnancies, healthy infants, and healthy families.”
Preterm delivery can happen to any pregnant woman; in many cases, the cause of preterm birth is unknown. Preterm birth is the leading cause of neonatal death, and those babies who survive are more likely to suffer from intellectual and physical disabilities. In addition to its human, emotional, and financial impact on families, preterm birth places a tremendous economic burden on the nation. A 2006 report by the Institute of Medicine found the cost associated with preterm birth in the United States was $26.2 billion annually, or $51,600 per infant born preterm. Employers, private insurers and individuals bear approximately half of the costs of health care for these infants, and another 40 percent is paid by Medicaid.
S. 252 was endorsed and strongly supported by a wide range of organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, and the National Association of City and County Health Officers, and more.
The original PREEMIE Act (P.L. 109-450) brought the first-ever national focus to prematurity prevention. The Surgeon General’s Conference on the Prevention of Preterm Birth required by the Act generated a public-private agenda to spur innovative research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and support evidence-based interventions to prevent preterm birth. The PREEMIE Reauthorization Act reauthorizes critical federal research, education and intervention activities related to preterm birth and infant mortality.