Yesterday the World Health Organization along with some of its key partners released Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth. In it, two key data points stood out. 15 million babies are born each year prematurely and 1.1 million of them die due to complications of preterm birth. Preterm birth is now the second leading cause of death for children under the age of five behind pneumonia.
These numbers are staggering and stand in the way of reaching the Millineum Development Goal of reducing childhood mortality by two thirds by 2015. According to the United Nations, the rate of child deaths is falling, but not rapidly enough.
The majority of preterm births occur in some of the poorest developing nations in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. You will probably be surprised to learn that the United States is one of the leading countries, despite our wealth, with large numbers of preterm births. In fact, the United States is one of the top 10 countries where preterm births occur. See the interactive map of preterm birth rates.
Through this report the World Health Organization is calling for greater investments, innovations, and research to help reduce the amount of preterm births and subsequent deaths. There is a new projected goal for 2025 to reduce the amount of preterm births by 50% in countries that have 5 preterm births per 1,000 live births according to the report. And for countries that have less than 5 preterm births per live 1,000 live births the goal is to eliminate all premature births.
Read the full report at WHO.int.