Celebrating World Prematurity Day 2023 – with a congress and an award

Guest article by Lucie Žáčková, Chairwoman and Executive Director of parent organisation Nedoklubko in the Czech Republic.


World Prematurity Day was first celebrated in the Czech Republic in 2010. This year marked the 13th anniversary of the event – and the first time after a three-year break that we could finally meet again in person, share experiences, and swap stories.


Nedoklubko’s first congress

The team of Nedoklubko, the Czech patient and parent organisation, decided to organise a special congress to highlight World Prematurity Day.

Held on 15 and 16 November in Prague, the main topics of the congress included developmental and family-focused care, instant skin-to-skin contact, and zero separation. Experts from all over the country were invited to join, and, in order to highlight the many people and professions involved in taking care of preterm babies and their families, we did not separate speakers with a medical background from those of other disciplines. So, our panel of experts consisted of nurses and doctors working in Czech neonatal departments, obstetricians, midwives, lactation consultants, and several physiotherapists.

The goal of the congress was simple yet tremendous: How do we ensure the best start in life for preterm newborns in the Czech Republic?

The diverse panel of speakers tackled the question from various points of view. The picture that emerged emphasised the need for families and healthcare professionals like nurses and doctors to work together in mutual respect. NICUs must also have enough staff and resources to be able to implement an approach to care which puts the needs of the patients and their families at the centre. This includes a “Zero Separation” policy at all times – because parents are not visitors; they are a central element of the care team.

Nedoklubko was particularly honoured that the First Lady of the Czech Republic, Eva Pavlová, agreed to take over the patronage of the congress, highlighting the political importance of maternal and neonatal care in the Czech Republic. We were also delighted that Silke Mader, EFCNI co-founder and Chairwoman of the Executive Board, opened the second day of the congress with a keynote lecture.


Raising awareness with a press conference

To ring in the congress and also drum up attention for the topic, Nedoklubko also held a big press conference on 15 November.

Speakers at the press conference stressed, for example, the benefits of Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC). The recommendations issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) just a year ago (on 15 November 2022) mark a turning point in the care of preterm newborns. The fundamental change is that KMC should become routine care for preterm newborns and should be initiated as soon as possible after birth. “Not the incubator but the mother’s chest should be the place of care for premature infants,” explained MUDr. Blanka Zlatohlávková, Ph.D., doctor at the Neonatal Ward at the Department of Gynaecology, Obstetrics and Neonatology of the 1st Faculty of Medicine of Charles University in Prague.

Another important theme that emerged from the press conference was the pivotal role of parents when it comes to caring for those born too soon. “For me, parents in neonatal wards are an important and indispensable component,” stated MUDr. Milena Dokoupilová, Head of the Neonatal Ward at Hořovice Hospital. Dr. Dokoupilová also pointed out that “parents can significantly reduce the burden on the staff who can then work much more efficiently and to a higher quality.”


Celebrating a purple party

To honour and celebrate the preterm babies and their families, Nedoklubko organised a social evening entitled “A star was born to us”. Preterm-born children, young adults, and also parents took the stage to perform.

Marie Apolena, for example, only weighed 1,010 grams when she was born too soon – she really fit in the palm of a hand. But this evening, she delighted the audience with her dancing skills. Likewise, twenty-years old Leticia was also born preterm but went on to complete her studies at the conservatory regardless. She sang songs from her repertoire at the event, reminding us all why this work is so important and why good neonatal care can make such a difference.

At this event, we also launched the new Nedoklubko calendar, named “Constellation of Nedoklubko 2024.” Well-known Czech personalities, including athletes and artists, cooperated in the project. Many of them have preterm children themselves.


The “Purple Hearts” Award

The congress was also a great opportunity to continue another Nedoklubko tradition: The Purple Hearts Awards!

Families and parents of preterm babies could vote for a doctor or nurse that went above and beyond the call of duty to provide the best care to preterm babies and to ensure the best possible outcome.

The winners of this year’s awards are:

  • Jiří Zach. Mayor of the Neonatal Department of FTN Praha Krč.
  • Jana Kučová, PhD. Head nurse at the Department of Neonatology, FN Ostrava.
  • Jarda Vavřina and the Harley-Davidson Challenge team Prague.
  • Jozef Macko, Ph.D. Mayor of the Neonatal Department of KNTB Zlín.
  • Marcela Pumprlová. Head Nurse of the Neonatal Department of KNTB Zlín.
  • Jana Knězová. Physiotherapist. In Memoriam.

I was equally honoured to receive a coveted Purple Hearts Award for my work for Nedoklubko these past ten years. It was a wonderful event recognising those paving the way for infant- and family-centred neonatal care.


All pictures curtesy of Nedoklubko. © Nedoklubko.