Europe faces a major challenge in relation to maternal and newborn health as quality of care varies widely across the EU according to the outcomes of an EFCNI-WHO event. This is compounded in the case of vulnerable groups, including preterm infants, who require specialist care and attention that is not always provided.
The event, organised in association with the Irish Presidency of the Council of the EU, comes further to a WHO Report from May 2012 that identified that preterm birth is the second leading cause of death globally for children under five. With the rate of preterm birth growing in most countries, the participants called for more work to be done to fight health complications and morbidities. Supported by EFCNI and WHO partners, participants called for maternal and newborn health to become a public health policy priority for all European governments.
Dr Angelika Niebler, MEP, demanded action
“We cannot underestimate the importance of high quality maternal care and a healthy birth. We need to ensure that all Europeans are able to have healthy pregnancies and enjoy the best possible start to life, irrespective of their background or nationality. European and national policy makers need to work together to make this a reality. EFCNI and the WHO have made an important contribution to bringing attention to the problems, which are clearly linked to issues high on the European policy agenda, such as chronic conditions. We now need commitment at European level that the proper policy is in place and that care plans are able to deliver better outcomes.”
Silke Mader, Chairwoman of the Executive Board of EFCNI, commented
“Preterm infants constitute Europe’s largest child patient group who are at a higher risk of developing both short and long term health complications. No less than one in ten families need to cope with the health difficulties that come with preterm birth. There are solutions available for these families, but they are not being implemented. Tonight at our joint WHO event this important fact was recognised and concrete solutions for improving European maternal and newborn health were endorsed.”
Some of the solutions discussed include the need to increase healthy pregnancies, effective maternal care and prevent preterm birth. Experts agreed that Caring for Tomorrow: EFCNI White Paper on Maternal and Newborn Health and Aftercare Services provides a good basis for identifying recommendations on how European health systems could improve. Emphasis was placed on the need to develop European high quality standards for prevention, treatment and long-term care, the support of greater research, education and exchange, as well as streamlined and targeted information for parents.
The event, organised in association with the Irish Presidency of the Council of the EU and in close collaboration with EFCNI’s national partners and European healthcare societies, was the first step towards developing standards of care for maternal and newborn health. Indeed, this meeting marks the establishment of an EU-wide network of stakeholders and parent representatives, led by EFCNI to create a way to benchmark existing care practices across Europe and establish recognised standards for delivering high quality care.
Prof. Marleen Temmerman, Director of the Department of Reproductive Health and Research, WHO, added
“Tonight we have focused on the need to prevent preterm birth, which has huge impacts on families all over the world. The financial burdens for families and society at large are unsustainable. We must act now to ensure that preterm infants and their families receive the high quality care that they are entitled to and deserve. This will reduce health challenges in the future and make societies healthier”.
The event featured globally recognised experts in maternal and newborn health as speakers, including Prof. Dr. Kypros H. Nicolaides, Director of The Fetal Medicine Foundation; Prof. Dr. Dietmar Schlembach, faculty member of the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena (Germany), Dept. of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Head of the Division of Prenatal Diagnosis & Fetal Physiology; Prof Dr. Luc Zimmermann, President of the European Society for Paediatric Research and Mandy Daly, patient representative from Ireland.
Alarming figures on prematurity
First ever worldwide estimates of preterm birth rates by country published today
Munich - 2nd May 2012 - The numbers speak for themselves: Each year, some 15 million babies in the world, more than one in 10 births, are born too early, according to the just released report "Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth". More than one million of those babies die shortly after birth; countless others suffer some type of lifelong physical, neurological, or educational disability, often at great cost to families and societies.
The report explains what is known about preterm birth, its causes, and the kinds of care that are needed and offers a detailed plan for the actions needed to reduce both the death toll and the numbers of preterm births. It was published by The World Health Organization (WHO), The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health as well as the organisations Save the Children and The March of Dimes Foundation and represents almost 50 United Nations agencies, universities, and organizations, amongst others also the European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants (EFCNI).
Prematurity: a growing trend for Europe
In an environment of demographic change and rising fiscal constraints, maternal and newborn health should become key to the future sustainability of health and social care systems, next to topics like chronic diseases and healthy and active ageing: In 2010, EFCNI published a data collection on prevention, treatment and care of preterm infants in Europe. (EU Benchmarking Report 2009/2010 „Too Little, Too Late?“). According to the findings of this report, the number of preterm births is rising: each year, about 500,000 babies are born too soon in Europe. Prevalence of preterm birth varies across the countries and ranges between 5.5 and 11.4%, representing an average 7.1% for the region. "EFCNI highly welcomes the publication of "Born too Soon". The report calls attention to the risks and problems associated with preterm birth, which is the single biggest and often preventable, cause of infant mortality and morbidity in both developed and developing countries." says Silke Mader, co-editor of the report and Chairwoman and founding member of EFCNI. "Thousands of infant deaths, chronic diseases and other medical conditions related to preterm birth could be prevented through effective, well organized and targeted maternal and newborn care and aftercare services."
Poor care of preterm infants ultimately costs Europe billions per year
Health inequalities across countries affect future potential of 500,000 preterm infants born in Europe every year
BRUSSELS – 23 NOVEMBER 2011 – Today, in the European Parliament, the European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants (EFCNI), parents, health professionals and politicians from across Europe came together for the first time to demand concerted action to improve the care of preterm and newborn infants in the European Union (EU).
Preterm birth is on the rise across the EU and preterm infants that are subjected to substandard care risk suffering from developmental problems, higher rates of learning and behavioural disabilities, cerebral palsy, sensory deficits, respiratory infections and chronic diseases. Well-organised, effective and targeted pre-conceptional, maternal and newborn care can make a lifelong difference to preterm infants and newborns with illnesses, as well as their families.
Today’s Call to Action, launched in collaboration with the European Parliament’s Interest Group on Maternal and Neonatal Health, alongside Caring for Tomorrow: EFCNI White Paper on Maternal and Newborn Health and Aftercare Services, calls on European and national policy makers to address the growing health inequalities encountered by preterm infants and their families by:
Hosting the launch, Dr Angelika Niebler, MEP, and patron of EFCNI, said, “There is a general lack of European-wide accepted standards of care for preterm infants and newborns with illnesses today. Urgent policy action is required at both the European and national level. We know that healthy ageing starts at birth and preterm infants must have the same chance at life as their full-term counterparts. Given ongoing policy priorities to increase competitiveness and ensure active and healthy ageing in Europe’s society, it is about time that Europe understands the need for identifying the provision of high-quality family-oriented maternal and newborn health services as a public policy priority.”
Responding to the call, Dr Peter Liese, MEP, also a host of the launch, urged policy makers and physicians to tackle the challenges of preterm birth. He said, “I call on all those here today to commit to our Call to Action. In policy making and in clinics and hospitals across Europe we must work in partnership to ensure that all of Europe’s babies receive the best possible start to life.“
Notes to editors:
About preterm infants
A full-term human pregnancy lasts 40 weeks. Delivery that occurs before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy is considered to be preterm birth, regardless of birth weight (World Health Organization). Although all births before 37 weeks of gestation are defined as preterm, most damage and death occurs in infants delivered before 34 weeks [1, 2]. It is therefore often convenient to consider preterm birth as being divided into the following subgroups:
The European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants (EFCNI) is the first pan-European organisation to represent the interests of preterm infants and their families. It gathers together parents and medical professionals from different disciplines with the common goal of improving long-term health of preterm and newborn children by ensuring the best possible prevention, treatment, care and support. For more information: http://www.efcni.org/
EFCNI receives funding from its premium partners, Abbott, Nestlé Nutrition and Dräger, as well as from other private companies and individual donors that make creating the White Paper, and other EFCNI projects, possible.
About the White Paper
Caring for Tomorrow - EFCNI White Paper on Maternal and Newborn Health and Aftercare Services provides the evidence base from which the Call to Action is derived. Together with the Call to Action, the White Paper intends to highlight some of the key concerns with regard to preterm birth. It aims to serve as a practical reference for policy makers, but also for parent organisations, healthcare professionals and other concerned stakeholders. It will ensure that there is a greater acknowledgement of the burden of preterm birth and newborns with illnesses – not only in terms of the health problems of the individual children themselves, but also their parents and family who raise them under difficult conditions and society as a whole in terms of financial burden.
Abbott has partnered with EFCNI since 2008, supporting the organization's efforts to increase awareness of the many challenges associated with preterm birth and improving the quality of care available for preterm infants. Abbott is committed to bringing together diverse stakeholders to find new solutions for patients, caregivers and societies around the world. Through an educational grant from Abbott, EFCNI was able to collaborate with pre-eminent maternal and newborn health professionals to develop Caring for Tomorrow, the EFCNI White Paper on Maternal and Newborn Health and Aftercare Services. This White Paper provides an evidence-based case and recommendations for policy makers, healthcare professionals, parents organizations and relevant others, for improving policies and clinical practices that will promote a healthy start in life.
Chairwoman, EFCNI Executive Board
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Senior Consultant, Weber Shandwick
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Date: 4 September 2011
The campaign aims to raise funds to purchase 100 new baby incubators for health institutions across Serbia and replace the old and inadequate ones.
European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants (EFCNI) President Silke Mader visited Belgrade and the Institute for Neonatology. The EFCNI will support the B92 campaign and take part in organizing the Serbian foundation for the care of prematurely born babies in order to raise awareness of the problems that neonatology, babies and parents are facing, to develop prevention and raise the entire field to European standards. B92: Unfortunately, you had a personal tragedy. You gave a premature birth to twins. Unfortunately, one of them died. As a brave and unselfish woman you decided to help other parents. Mader: The situation was a real nightmare for me. I live in Germany and we certainly have excellent medical equipment, the best you can find for prematurely born children, but as parents we did not get enough information, advice. Nobody listened to us, helped us when our baby daughter died. My dream is not to have a single parent go through the experience I went through and that parents get support from the very beginning. B92: How does your foundation support parents? Mader: We are preparing an adequate information material, we have created a website for parents, we organize campaigns so parents could easily get necessary knowledge and at the same time we bring public and government’s attention which is aimed to improve long-term care for prematurely born children. Every six months we organize a meeting with parents’ associations, we hold lectures. We teach them how to organize themselves better within the associations and we now fight together to change the European law and extend maternal leave for mothers who have prematurely born babies. By seeking better care for the babies we request higher rights for the parents too. The EFCNI president has promised to help raise financial means for the B92 campaign abroad. “We are really amazed and happy that you are doing something so good and fighting to give necessary homes to babies! A safe incubator is a safe and necessary house for a prematurely born baby. And that is equally important to parents and medical staff, to allow them to treat the babies more successfully and to give them the best possible care. What you are doing is wonderful, thank you so much. Babies are our future. By investing in high quality medical care of babies we invest in our own future. What could be better,” she stressed.
For more information
Chairwoman of the Executive Board
Outcomes in the eye of the beholder: making critical decisions about our tiniest babies
- a one-day meeting to develop a European consensus statement on decision making in extremely preterm birth
This October, a group of European experts have taken an important first step towards harmonising decision-making regarding extremely premature babies across the European Union.
The meeting, organised by the European Critical Care Foundation in association with the European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants and the Lancet, explored the wide range of medical and ethical challenges involved in the care of babies born before 26 weeks of gestation, identified both communalities and differences between European countries in the extent to which healthcare professionals share decision-making responsibilities with parents, as well as in the way emotionally difficult topics such as life-long disability and end-of-life care are approached.
The multidisciplinary meeting, held in Copenhagen, included thirty of Europe’s leading neonatologists, obstetricians, neonatal nurses, midwives, psychologists, philosophers and religious leaders, as well as parents of premature babies representing European family support groups. It was the first time that an expert gathering at this level has involved parents from several European countries.
“Too Little, Too Late?”
European policy report demonstrates why Europe should do more for preterm infants
Brussels – 6 May 2010 – The rate of preterm births is rising across Europe, but neither the EU nor most of its member states identify prematurity and neonatal care as a policy priority, according to a new report, launched today by the European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants (EFCNI).
Please click on "Benchmark Report" to read about the details of the benchmarking report or for a translation of selected parts into German, Italian or Spanish.