Prematurity Research Expansion and Education for Mothers Who Deliver Infants Early Reauthorization Act

Floor Speech

By:  Frank Pallone, Jr.
Date: Dec. 19, 2012
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. PALLONE. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I am pleased to rise in support of S. 1440, as amended. The legislation before us extends two existing programs and creates one new initiative, all activities that impact children's health.

The first title of the legislation reauthorizes the Prematurity Research Expansion and Education for Mothers who deliver Infants Early, or PREEMIE, Act through fiscal year 2017. The PREEMIE Act was signed into law in 2006, and I was proud to be a cosponsor of the original House legislation.

S. 1440, as amended, calls for further studies on factors related to prematurity, improved data on the national burden of preterm birth, continued preterm birth prevention efforts, and strengthened public and health provider education on risk factors for preterm delivery and treatments and outcomes for preterm infants. The legislation also codifies an advisory committee to the Secretary of Health and Human Services on infant mortality and directs the Secretary to coordinate existing quality studies on hospital readmissions and preterm infants.

Since the enactment of the PREEMIE Act, we've seen the preterm birth rate decline to its present level of just under 12 percent, the lowest rate we've seen since the late nineties. The good news is there's been progress in better understanding the causes of premature births and promoting interventions that work. On the other hand, however, we still don't know the causes of premature birth in up to 40 percent of cases. And then there's the cost to the health care system of premature births--more than $26 billion each year--not to mention the increased risks of serious disability and death for newborns and the tremendous toll prematurity takes on their families. And that's precisely why the goals of the PREEMIE Act remain just as salient as they were 6 years ago.

The second title is similar to the House-passed National Pediatric Research Network Act of 2012 and allows the National Institutes of Health to establish a national pediatric research network comprised of up to eight pediatric research consortia, or groups of collaborating institutions. The consortia will conduct basic clinical, behavioral, and translational research on pediatric diseases and conditions.

Among the eight consortia, the NIH Director will ensure that an appropriate number of awards go to consortia that focus primarily on pediatric rare diseases, such as spinal muscular atrophy or birth defects such as Down syndrome. There are many rare pediatric diseases, and in some of these diseases, the children are incredibly fragile. If we can allow for research to occur across the country, not just one single location, research can be done at a larger level because children could then participate without having to travel.

Additionally, we all know too well that, traditionally, pediatric research has been underfunded. That can make it hard to train and develop the research talent needed to address these devastating illnesses. The consortia can therefore be the training grounds for future researchers, helping to fill the pediatric pipeline.

Finally, the third title, Madam Speaker, of the amendment to S. 1440 reauthorizes the Children's Hospitals Graduate Medical Education, or CHGME, program through fiscal year 2017. The legislation maintains the current authorization level and will support the work of 56 children's hospitals training over 5,000 pediatric residents in 30 States.

The CHGME program was first established in 1999, following declines in pediatric training programs that threatened the stability of the pediatric workforce.

Like any parent knows, it's important to have a trusted health provider to turn to when your child is sick or hurt. In Congress, on a bipartisan basis, we recognize that if we didn't create and fund programs to train pediatricians, there wouldn't be anyone left to care for our kids.

Since its inception, the CHGME program has been a success story, supporting children's hospitals and their work to train future generations of our pediatric workforce, including pediatric subspecialists in very short supply. Representing only 1 percent of all hospitals, the small number of children's hospitals that participate in the program train approximately 40 percent of all pediatricians and nearly half of all pediatric specialists. That's why continuing this critical program will have a major impact on access to primary care and specialty care for kids.

Reauthorizing this program, Madam Speaker, was one of my top health priorities of the year, and I want to thank Chairman Joe Pitts, the chairman of our Health Subcommittee, for working with me on this bill. Together with his help and leadership, we were able to move this bill through our committee and to the House floor last year. I'm hopeful that reauthorization of the CHGME program will finally make it to the President's desk as part of S. 1440.

I just want to take a moment to commend Chairman Upton, Chairman Pitts, and Ranking Member Waxman for their leadership on this legislation. I have to recognize and thank the House sponsor of the PREEMIE Act and the National Pediatric Research Network Act, and those Energy and Commerce members: Congresswoman Eshoo, Congressman Lance, Congresswoman Capps, and Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers. They were really dedicated to these important issues.

Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. PALLONE. I have no additional speakers, Madam Speaker, so I would simply ask that we support this legislation and pass it on a bipartisan basis.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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