Bill to prevent premature birth passes Senate

WASHINGTON -- U.S. (WVLT) -- A bill to prevent premature birth passed the Senate and was headed to the House of Representatives Friday.

The Alexander-Bennett bill, sponsored by U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) praised passage by the Senate of the bipartisan PREEMIE Act, their bill to expand research, education, and intervention activities related to preterm birth.

Alexander said, “This bill will give the more than 200 premature babies born on average each week in Tennessee a better shot at a healthy life, by giving scientists and doctors researching premature birth the resources to continue their work. I urge our colleagues in the House to pass this bill and continue the progress begun when this bill first passed in 2006.”

“With the medical science and technology available to us, the United States should be leading the way in research to develop new treatments for preterm birth,” Bennet said. “This bipartisan bill will help us better understand the causes of preterm birth and how we can reduce the number of occurrences in Colorado and around the country. I am pleased the Senate passed the bill with broad, bipartisan support, and I urge the House to pass it as soon as possible.”

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.

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 prematurely. 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.

The bill allows the National Institutes of Health to expand, intensify, and coordinate research related to preterm birth—subject to the availability of funding. It also reauthorizes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) research and programs on preterm birth, including improving national data tracking on preterm birth, and conducting studies. The bill adds prenatal care for high-risk pregnancies to the Health Resources and Services Administration telehealth network grant program.

The bill requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Infant Mortality to develop a plan for conducting and supporting research, education and programs on preterm birth within the first year of enactment, and requires the HHS secretary to coordinate existing studies on hospital readmission of preterm infants and to report on recommendations within a year of enactment.

A bipartisan companion bill was introduced in the House by Representatives by Representatives Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ).

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.


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