Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Approves Legislation to Prevent Preterm Birth

February 13, 2013

Today the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions approved the PREEMIE Reauthorization Act (S.252). The bipartisan legislation reauthorizes federal research, education and intervention activities related to preterm birth and infant mortality.

“Today the Senate took a vital step toward ensuring a healthy start in life for all infants,” said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, President of the March of Dimes. “We’ve made significant progress since the original PREEMIE Act in 2006: Preterm birth rates have now dropped for five consecutive years after rising steadily for three decades. Reauthorizing the PREEMIE Act will help us reach the March of Dimes goal of lowering the preterm birth rate to 9.6 percent by 2020 and reduce the number of infant deaths and childhood disabilities caused by premature birth.”

The bill is supported by the March of Dimes, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses and 17 other organizations. A complete list is included at the end of this media release.

“The March of Dimes applauds the leadership of Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) for their introduction of the bill and commends HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and the other members of the HELP Committee for supporting and moving the bill forward,” Dr. Howse added. “We urge the Senate to pass this landmark legislation as quickly as possible.”

The original PREEMIE Act (P.L. 109-450) brought the first-ever national focus to prematurity prevention. The Surgeon General’s Conference on the Prevention of Preterm Birth created by the Act generated a public-private agenda to spur innovative research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and support evidence-based interventions to prevent preterm birth.

One in nine infants is born premature in the United States. Preterm delivery can happen to any pregnant woman; in the majority of cases, the cause of preterm birth is unknown. Preterm birth is the leading cause of neonatal death, and those babies who survive are more likely to suffer from intellectual and physical disabilities. In addition to its human, emotional, and financial impact on families, preterm birth places a tremendous economic burden on the nation. A 2006 report by the Institute of Medicine found the cost associated with preterm birth in the United States was $26.2 billion annually, or $51,600 per infant born preterm. Employers, private insurers and individuals bear approximately half of the costs of health care for these infants, and another 40 percent is paid by Medicaid.

The PREEMIE Reauthorization Act is supported by the following organizations:

  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • American Association on Health and Disability
  • American College of Nurse-Midwives
  • American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
  • American Organization of Nurse Executives
  • American Public Health Association
  • American Thoracic Society
  • Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs
  • Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
  • Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses
  • Children’s Hospital Association
  • Council of Women's and Infants' Specialty Hospitals
  • First Candle/SIDS Alliance
  • Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth
  • March of Dimes
  • National Association of County and City Health Officials
  • National Association of Neonatal Nurses
  • National Association of Nurse Practitioners
  • Preeclampsia Foundation
  • RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association
  • Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine