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Premature birth: One of the most underserved causes globally

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World Prematurity Day is being celebrated today to raise awareness about premature birth. It is being held under the theme “A parent's embrace: a powerful therapy.”

Preterm infants or premature babies are born at less than 37 weeks of gestational age. Low birthweight (LBW) infants are born weighing below 2.5kg at birth regardless of gestational age. An estimated 15 million people are born prematurely and more than 20 million are born with LBW each year.

Prematurity and LBW remain the leading causes of death in newborns and children under five years of age. Preterm and LBW infants have a higher risk of developmental disabilities including cerebral palsy and retinopathy of prematurity. The consequences of prematurity and LBW may continue into adulthood, increasing the risk of adult-onset chronic conditions such as obesity and diabetes.

Despite its magnitude and urgency, premature birth remains one of the most underserved humane causes globally. Prevention of deaths due to preterm birth has made the slowest progress over the decades compared to progress made in other diseases such as malaria.

According to the most recent estimates, preterm birth is a leading cause of under-five mortality, claiming nearly 1 million lives every year, with the rate of preterm birth increasing in many countries.

Dr. Gopakumar Nair, CEO, Leo and Mia Foundation.png

Dr. Gopakumar Nair, Chief Executive Officer, Leo & Mia Foundation

The top global causes of death, in order of total number of lives lost, are associated with three broad categories: cardiovascular, respiratory and neonatal conditions – which include birth asphyxia and birth trauma, neonatal sepsis and infections, and preterm birth complications.

The World Health Organisation commemorates the World Prematurity Day on November 17th of each year, raising awareness about premature birth. Individuals and organisations from more than 100 countries celebrate this day through organising special events and making commitments to help address preterm birth and improve the status of preterm babies and their families, specifically their mothers.

The World Prematurity Day 2022 is being celebrated under the theme “A parent's embrace: a powerful therapy”, promoting skin-to-skin contact from the moment of birth. Skin-to-skin contact after birth is an evidence-based form of care. Provided in a timely manner, skin-to-skin contact can save lives and improve health outcomes among preterm babies. Research has found that skin-to-skin contact between babies and their mothers stimulates a specific part of the newborn's brain, bringing scores of benefits for babies and their mothers alike.

Leo & Mia Foundation is devoted to the cause of preterm babies and their mothers. Our goal is to develop an ecosystem that enables women and parents to pursue their roles as caregivers. We also aim to educate communities to develop a better understanding of preterm birth, and support mothers, caregivers, and healthcare professionals to provide necessary care to infants.

Over the years, we have been engaging with parents to ensure proper Essential Newborn Care, empowering parents with tools, education and awareness on family centred care for preterm newborns.

The training and supportive supervision that Leo & Mia Foundation provides aim to advance skills and competencies of frontline healthcare workers, facilitating cost-effective care for preterm babies.

Leo & Mia Foundation’s vision is anchored in the third Sustainable Development Goal (SDG3), which aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, including putting an end to preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age by 2030.

With a focus on early interventions, the Foundation develops a continuum of care for preterm babies in the first 1,000 days of their lives. We celebrate the miracle of life everyday, engaging communities to actively change the narrative around preterm births, develop better understanding and encourage empathy. 

Dr. Gopakumar Nair is the Chief Executive Officer of the Leo & Mia Foundation. He is a seasoned Executive with 20 years of international experience in global health and sustainable development. 
 

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