During a news conference today at Hunterdon Medical Center, Congressman Leonard Lance (R-NJ), representatives from the March of Dimes, New Jersey Chapter, hospital officials and community leaders discussed bipartisan legislation to expand research, education and intervention activities related to preterm births.
Lance's PREEMIE Reauthorization Act would help reduce preterm birth, prevent newborn death and disability caused by premature birth, and expand research into the causes of preterm birth. It also will promote the development, availability, and uses of evidence-based standards of care for pregnant women. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation will reauthorize the legislation signed into law in December 2006.
"Each year more than half a million babies are born prematurely," Lance said during a morning news conference at Hunterdon Medical Center. "Although the medical community has made great strides in identifying the many risk factors associated with premature births, too many premature births today have no known cause. The reauthorization of the PREEMIE Act is an important bipartisan effort that will provide continued research, education and intervention of prematurity and low birth weight. It is my hope that this bill will ultimately decrease the number of premature births in the near future."
"We applaud Congressman Leonard Lance for introducing the PREEMIE Reauthorization Act," said Addy Bonet, State Director of the March of Dimes, New Jersey Chapter. "Renewing the original PREEMIE Act is a key component of March of Dimes' wide-ranging efforts to reduce infant deaths and childhood disabilities caused by premature birth. We're making progress across the country, especially here in New Jersey, in our work to give more babies a healthy start in life. Here in the Garden State our preterm birth dropped to 12 percent in 2009 -- below the national rates. Congressman Lance is not only providing leadership at the national level on this issue, but he has been a strong supporter of the New Jersey chapter and our efforts."
Several elected officials and community leaders participated in the event and praised Lance for his leadership on the issue, including Assemblyman Erik Peterson, Hunterdon Freeholder Ron Sworen,
Somerset Freeholder Jack Ciattarelli, Hunterdon County Sheriff Fred Brown, Raritan Township Mayor John King, Robert P. Wise, President and CEO of Hunterdon Healthcare System, Ardath Youngblood, Interim Director of Maternity at Hunterdon Medical Center and Wayne Fellmeth, pediatrician at Hunterdon Medical Center.
According to federal data, this year in the U.S. alone approximately 28,000 babies will die before their first birthday -- 36 percent of those from pre-term birth complications.
In addition to being the leading cause of newborn death, premature birth can cause a lifetime of health challenges and intellectual disabilities for those children who do survive. According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the annual societal costs associated with preterm birth were $26.2 billion in 2005 or $51,600 per infant born preterm. Nearly two-thirds of this $26.2 billion estimate was spent on medical care, and this number does not even include the cost of medical care beyond early childhood or caretaker costs such as lost wages.
This legislation is supported by the March of Dimes Foundation, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Association of Women's Health, and Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses.
Lance's bipartisan bill is coauthored by Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA). In the United States Senate companion legislation was introduced by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Michael Bennet (D-CO).