World Prematurity Day: A Spotlight on the Challenges of Preterm Births
World Prematurity Day, observed on November 17, is a day to raise awareness of the challenges and burden of preterm birth globally. Preterm birth is a leading cause of death in the newborn period. Moreover, for preterm babies who survive, there may be physical and neurodevelopmental disabilities that create significant burdens for the child, for families, and for health systems. Improving health outcomes for the smallest and most fragile among us is a goal that unites people throughout the world, regardless of geographical, political, or societal borders.
Throughout my career, mothers and babies have been close to my heart. I have spent much of my career studying the causes of morbidity and mortality among preterm and low birthweight infants and have been involved in neonatal clinical trials to improve therapies for and outcomes of sick newborns, both in the United States and internationally. I had the great fortune to serve as a principal investigator for the NICHD Neonatal Research Network for almost three decades, and through my participation in this important network, I came to embrace the value of a collaborative research network to identify and study important issues in neonatal-perinatal medicine.
That spirit of collaboration also can be seen in the “For Our Children” project, designed as a dialogue between Chinese and U.S. pediatricians on children’s health. The goal of this CMB-supported project has been to work together to make recommendations about child health education and workforce development that will meet the current health needs of children in China and United States. The leaders of the “For Our Children” project anticipate releasing their report in 2022, with recommendations to address health outcomes and disparities, pediatric workforce needs, pediatric training systems, and other important steps. I hope their findings may also open the door for further U.S.-China collaboration on neonatal mortality and morbidity – building on the warm spirit of common purpose and exchange of best practices that has made the “For Our Children” project such a rewarding endeavor for health professionals in our two countries.
Barbara J. Stoll