PREEMIE Bill Introduced in Senate

September 29, 2010

Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Chris Dodd (D-CT) introduced legislation today to reauthorize the PREEMIE Act (P.L. 109-450) to continue and enhance federal support for research into the causes and prevention of premature birth and to reduce infant mortality caused by prematurity.

“The 2006 enactment of PREEMIE drove critically needed attention and resources into research to address the epidemic of premature birth,” said Jennifer L. Howse, PhD, president of the March of Dimes. “Now four years later, due to the innovative work of scientists and clinicians across the nation, many supported by the original PREEMIE Act, we are seeing progress: for the first time in three decades in the form of a two-year drop in rate of preterm birth.”

Specifically the bill calls for expanding the scope of work supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Health Resources and Services Administration to include new initiatives ranging from the creation of trans-disciplinary research centers and additional epidemiological studies to telemedicine.

“This bill will ensure continued federal support for the scientists and doctors who are looking into the causes of premature births and how we can prevent them,” Senator Alexander said. “Premature birth is the number one cause of infant death in this country and with an average of 236 premature babies a week born in Tennessee, we need to make a lot more progress and this bill will continue the good work to find a solution to this very serious problem.”

Among the provisions of the 2006 PREEMIE Act was the call for a Surgeon General’s Conference on Prevention of Preterm Birth, a meeting held in June 2008, which brought together research scientists, clinicians, and other experts from the public and private sectors to develop recommendations to address the complex, costly, and heartbreaking problem of preterm birth.

“Each year, more than half a million babies are born prematurely,” said Senator Dodd. “Although we have identified many risk factors associated with premature births, still nearly half of these births have no known cause. The reauthorization of the PREEMIE Act is an important step to ensure that we are providing the support necessary to continue research of prematurity and low birth weight and decrease the number of premature births in the future.”

The PREEMIE Act, abbreviated from the Prematurity Research Expansion and Education for Mothers who Deliver Infants Early Act, will expand and improve the scope of federally supported activities permitted under the current statute which is scheduled to expire at the end of fiscal year 2011.

"The March of Dimes applauds the vision and leadership of Senators Alexander and Dodd, who championed bipartisan approval of PREEMIE in 2006," said Dr. Howse. "We look forward to again working with Members from both sides of the aisle to ensure enactment of this critical legislation that will provide the federal support needed to address a very serious problem affecting too many of our nation’s families and babies every year."