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

Australia Knights Prince Philip, Sparking National Outrage

Abbott's surprise reintroduction of knights and dames in the country's honors system last year drew criticism that he was out of touch with national sentiment More

SAG Award Boosts 'Birdman' Oscar Hopes

Individual acting Oscars appear to be sewn up: SAG awards went to artists who won Golden Globes: Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons More

Katy Perry Lights Way for Super Bowl's Girl Power Moment

Pop star's selection to headline US football championship's halftime show extends NFL's trend of selecting artists who appeal to younger viewers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sidesi
X
June Soh
January 23, 2015 10:03 PM
The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid