WA research reducing the number of pre-term births set to be adopted nationally

Health Minister Roger Cook makes the announcement.
Health Minister Roger Cook makes the announcement.

A WA research program credited with having slashed the State’s rate of preterm births is to be adopted nationally and overseas.

Success of the WA Preterm Birth Prevention Initiative – headed by King Edward Memorial Hospital consultant obstetrician John Newnham – led to Commonwealth funding of $1.2 million to expand the program into NSW and Victoria.

Now the rest of Australia is set to follow suit.

A national alliance of state and territory health departments has been launched to lower the nation’s preterm birth rate, and will use the WA program as a template.

New Zealand and Canada are also looking at introducing the program.

Launched in 2014, the program recorded an eight per cent drop in preterm births in the first full year of the program in 2015, sparing an estimated 200 infants from serious complications associated with birth prior to the critical 37 week period of gestation.

Preterm birth is a baby born from 20 to 37 weeks and is the leading cause of death and disability in children up to five years of age.

In WA about one in 12 pregnancies results in a preterm birth.

Health Minister Roger Cook said the program was an example of the innovative research underway in WA that has the potential to improve lives around the world.

“Delaying the birth of a newborn baby by approximately seven weeks, from 24 weeks to 31 weeks’ gestation, saves the health system over $150,000, but the human cost is even greater with complications from preterm birth often resulting in life-long health problems,” he said.