Background, Surgeon General Conference on Preterm Birth, 2008

June 16-17, 2008

Preterm birth remains one of the most complicated and difficult research and public health issues in obstetrics and pediatrics. Nearly 12 percent of all babies born in the United States are born preterm, and this rate continues to rise. To underscore the importance of this problem, the U.S. Congress passed the Prematurity Research Expansion and Education for Mothers who Deliver Infants Early (PREEMIE) Act (P.L. 109-450), which was signed by the President in December 2006. The Act mandate.ed a Surgeon General’s conference to address the growing problem of preterm birth. In 2007, the Office of the Surgeon General named the NICHD as its scientific lead for this Conference on the Prevention of Preterm Birth.

The purpose of this conference is to:

  • Increase awareness of preterm birth in the United States;
  • Review key findings and reports (including the Institute of Medicine Report Preterm Birth: Causes, Consequences and Prevention) issued by experts in the field; and
  • Establish an agenda for activities in both the public and private sectors to mitigate this public health problem.

The Office of the Surgeon General, in partnership with public and private organizations, has identified experts and community leaders from the research, public health, and medical communities committed to preventing preterm birth. These individuals will convene work groups and conduct preliminary discussions that will inform a national agenda to prevent preterm birth based on existing recommendations from the Institute of Medicine’s 2006 report on preterm birth and emerging literature concerning activities needed to help prevent preterm birth. Materials will be made available on the Web site several weeks before the meeting, so that you can share your views with the work groups before they begin their first-day deliberations.

Prior to the conference, six closed working sessions will be held among the aforementioned field experts and community leaders that specifically focus on (1) biomedical research, (2) epidemiological research, (3) psychosocial and behavioral contributors to preterm birth, (4) professional education and training, (5) public communication and outreach, and (6) quality of care and health services. On June 17, when the public conference convenes, the six work groups will present the results of their discussions to a general audience. During this time, members of the public are invited to offer comments and suggestions. Information useful to developing future strategies to address this public health concern will be presented in the final session of the conference.

This conference will help set an agenda that will serve as a comprehensive blueprint to speed the identification of the causes of, risk factors for, and treatment of preterm labor and delivery. The translation of such an agenda by researchers, public health officials, clinicians, policymakers, and the interested public will be an important step toward resolving the growing epidemic of preterm birth and ensuring healthy future generations of mothers and children.

Background Materials
Institute of Medicine (IOM) Reports

Prematurity Research Expansion and Education for Mothers who deliver Infants Early (PREEMIE) Act

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