- WA preterm birth program set to roll out nationally
- State records big drop in preterm births after first full year of initiative
A WA research program credited with having slashed the State's rate of preterm births is to be adopted nationally.
Success of the WA Preterm Birth Prevention Initiative – headed by King Edward Memorial Hospital consultant obstetrician John Newnham – led to Commonwealth funding of $1.2 million to expand the program into NSW and Victoria.
Now the rest of Australia is set to follow suit. A national alliance of state and territory health departments has been launched to lower the nation's preterm birth rate, and will use the WA program as a template.
New Zealand and Canada are also looking at introducing the program.
Launched in 2014, the WA Preterm Birth Prevention Initiative, delivered through the Women & Infants Research Foundation, is a three-pronged program made up of:
- Statewide obstetric outreach and professional health advice;
- A public health and social media campaign called The Whole Nine Months;
- A dedicated Preterm Birth Prevention Clinic at King Edward Memorial Hospital.
Western Australia recorded an eight per cent drop in preterm births in the first full year of the program in 2015, sparing an estimated 200 infants from serious complications associated with birth prior to the critical 37 period of gestation.
Preterm birth is a baby born from 20 to 37 weeks and is the leading cause of death and disability in children up to five years of age.
In WA about one in 12 pregnancies results in a preterm birth.
Comments attributed to Health Minister Roger Cook:
"This program is an example of the innovative research underway in this State that has the potential to improve lives – both here in Western Australia and around the world.
Delaying the birth of a newborn baby by approximately seven weeks, from 24 weeks to 31 weeks' gestation, saves the health system over $150,000, but the human cost is even greater with complications from preterm birth often resulting in life-long health problems.
The WA Preterm Birth initiative highlights what can be achieved when researchers, doctors, health professionals, families and government work together collaboratively.
Professor Newnham and his team at King Edwards and UWA are to be commended on this pioneering program which is now setting the bar nationally."
Minister's office: 6552 6500