News / Africa

Saving Premies from Death or Disability

Three-day-old premature baby Jessica Thelusma is carried by her mother Silvie Estain in the emergency room at General Hospital in Port-au-Prince, Saturday, May 8, 2010. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Three-day-old premature baby Jessica Thelusma is carried by her mother Silvie Estain in the emergency room at General Hospital in Port-au-Prince, Saturday, May 8, 2010. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua

It’s estimated about 15-million babies are born prematurely each year. About one million of them die, while many others suffer life-long disabilities.  A major study says half the women at risk of pre-term deliveries are not receiving simple, low cost treatments that could help prevent death or disabilities in newborns.

De Capua report on pre-term delivery risk
De Capua report on pre-term delivery riski
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

The study of more than 300,000 births in 29 low and middle income countries appears in The Lancet.

The World Health Organization’s Dr. Joshua Vogel, who led the research, said, “It’s a very big problem and a global one. Our best estimates are that over one in ten births worldwide actually occur before 37-weeks. So occur pre-term before the baby is fully grown and that’s in the region of about 15-million births annually.”

Most of the pre-term births occur in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Why pre-term births occur, he said, is a complex question.

“Many conditions can actually cause it, for example, infections. But often we don’t know the reason. They just occur and we need to do the best we can to manage them.”

Besides the nearly one million deaths each year among pre-term babies, many of those who survive have serious health issues. These include cardiovascular problems, visual and hearing difficulties and learning disabilities.

“And of course we need to consider how this can have an impact on the family, not just the individual baby or child, but also the economic consequences as well,” he said.

Vogel -- who‘s with the WHO’s Reproductive Health and Research Department – said there are simple, effective and inexpensive treatments that can prevent many of these problems.

“We have the antenatal corticosteroids that can help develop the lungs a bit quicker. And we also have another group of medications called tocolytics. And tocolytics can actually slow down or even in some cases temporarily stop a woman’s contractions. And this can buy us a little bit of time, not just in terms of helping to deliver, but more to give time for us to administer antenatal corticosteroids – for those drugs to work – or indeed to transfer the woman to a facility where she can get access to the best newborn care for the premature newborn when it is born,” he said.

But many women simply are not receiving these treatments.

Vogel said, “Of the women that are eligible for those drugs only just over half of them are actually receiving it. And in the case of the tocolytics medications, we found most women who are eligible were not receiving tocolytics medication or an antenatal corticosteroid. We also found that instead of tocolytics drugs women were often being treated with regimens that we know don’t really make much of a difference in this particular clinical situation.”

About a third of the women studied received ineffective treatments for pre-term risk, such as bed rest, hydration and magnesium sulfate. And many who did receive the tocolytics were not getting the best form known as calcium channel blockers. Instead, they were given the more risky beta-agonists, which can increase the risk of cardiovascular problems, nausea and vomiting.

Vogel said the precise reasons why women are not getting proper treatments are unclear. Further study is needed on that. But he gives a few possibilities.

“It can be misunderstanding on the behalf of health staff or a lack of information. It can be a fear amongst women or the doctors or health care providers themselves. And of course it can be a lot of economic and financial barriers -- not just for hospitals and getting access to the drugs, but in the case of women and their families being able to afford it,” he said.

Vogel said to reduce the risk of pre-term births the medications should be given to eligible women between 26 and 34 weeks into pregnancy.  The WHO official agreed with those who say the drugs are not a panacea and that a comprehensive approach is needed to reduce deaths and disabilities associated with pre-term births.

You May Like

US Gives Malaysia Questionable Upgrade in Human Trafficking Ranks

Malaysia’s upgrade seen as removing barrier to country’s participation in the US-led 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership More

Turkey, US Try to Establish Buffer Despite Differences

Coalition airstrikes in proposed zone would aim to drive out Islamic extremists, allowing targeted area to come under sway of anti-Assad rebels More

Video US: Millions Exploited by Vast Fortunes of Human Trafficking

State Department's annual report calls exploitation 'modern slavery,' brutalizing girls, women into prostitution and forcing men, women and children into low-wage jobs across the globe More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs