Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tn.) and Michael Bennet (D-Co.), members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), on Thursday praised the passage in the committee of their bill to expand research, education, and intervention activities related to preterm birth.
Officials said the PREEMIE Act will help reduce preterm birth, prevent newborn death and disability caused by it, and expand preterm birth research. It also will promote the development, availability, and uses of evidence-based standards of care for pregnant women. The bill passed the committee by voice vote.
Senator Alexander said, “This bill is to help the half a million babies born prematurely each year, including an average 204 premature babies born each week in Tennessee—that’s 13 percent of all live births. We have seen significant progress in reducing premature births since we first passed this bill in 2006, but preterm birth is still the leading killer of newborns and there is a lot of work left to do. I salute the March of Dimes for its great efforts in reducing premature births, and I urge my colleagues to join the committee in supporting this important bill.”
“Preterm birth is the leading cause of newborn death and is more common in the United States than many other developed countries. The PREEMIE Act is a bipartisan effort to help us better understand its causes and how we can reduce the number of occurrences,” Senator Michael Bennet said. “I am pleased my colleagues on the HELP Committee have moved this bill forward, and I urge the Senate to pass it as soon as possible.”
This year in the U.S. alone, approximately 28,000 babies will die before their first birthday, 36 percent of those from preterm birth complications. In addition to being the leading cause of newborn death, premature birth can cause a lifetime of health challenges and intellectual disabilities for those children who do survive. According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the annual societal costs associated with preterm birth were $26.2 billion in 2005 or $51,600 per infant born preterm. Nearly two-thirds of this $26.2 billion estimate was spent on medical care, a figure that does not include the cost of medical care beyond early childhood or caretaker costs such as lost wages.
A companion bill was introduced in the House by Representatives Anna G. Eshoo (D-Ca.) and Leonard Lance (R-N.J.). The bill is supported by the March of Dimes Foundation, 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 & Child Health Programs, and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.