World Prematurity Day: Let Them Thrive

World Prematurity Day: Let Them Thrive

by Julia Samuel on Nov 16 2017 5:47 PM
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  • Every year, November 17 is celebrated as the World Prematurity Day to raise awareness on the increasing rate of preterm birth.
  • ‘Let them thrive’ is the theme for this year’s campaign.
  • Preterm birth cause complications which are the leading cause of death in children less than 5 years of age.
World Prematurity Day celebrated on November 17 aims to raise awareness about preterm birth and the risks involved. The day highlights the need for more research to detect the risk of premature birth, treatment for the premature baby and community support.
Every year, 15 million babies are born preterm that is, one in 10 live births. Preterm birth is not restricted to low-and-middle-income countries, it also occurs in high-income countries.


Preterm Birth

The normal gestation period is 40 weeks, but, when the baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy, it is called preterm birth. Babies who survive can have long-term health problems, including cerebral palsy, chronic lung disease, intellectual disabilities, hearing loss and blindness.

The reason to consider premature birth as a serious issue is that it is the leading cause of death in children under the age of five.

Based on gestational age, there are sub-categories of preterm birth:
  • When the baby is born <28 weeks, it is extremely preterm
  • Very preterm is when the baby is born between 28 to <32 weeks
  • Moderate to late preterm when the baby is born within 32 to <37 weeks


Why Does Preterm Birth Happen?

There are a variety of reasons for preterm birth. Mostly, they occur spontaneously, but some may be due to early induction of labor or Cesarean birth.

Common causes of preterm birth include:
The overall health, lifestyle habits of the mother before and during pregnancy has an influence on the baby. Smoking, alcohol, drugs, and physical inactivity may cause premature birth.


Where and When Does Preterm Birth Happen?

Preterm birth is truly a global problem though more than 60% of preterm births occur in Africa and South Asia. On an average, 12% of babies are born preterm in lower-income countries, compared with 9% in higher-income countries.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), India tops the list of the 10 countries with the greatest number of preterm births. China, Nigeria, Pakistan and Indonesia follow the consequent places in order. The United States of America stands sixth with 517 400 premature birth every year. Brazil is the last on the list preceded by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Philippines and Bangladesh.

Response of WHO to Tackle Premature Birth

The World Prematurity Day was initiated in 2008by European parent organizations and has been celebrated since 2011. The day is observed with media campaigns, local events and other activities conducted on local, regional, national or international level to raise awareness.

Apart from creating awareness, the WHO has responded to the issue by coming up with strategies to lower the count of preterm births. In 2012, "Born too soon: the global action report on preterm birth" was published by the WHO and partners. This was the first-ever estimates of preterm birth by country.

To reduce the health problems due to preterm birth, the WHO:
  • Works with the Member States to implement "Every Newborn: An Action Plan to End Preventable Deaths." This was adopted in May 2014.
  • Strengthens the availability and quality of data on preterm births.
  • Provides updated analyses of global preterm birth levels and trends every 3 to 5 years.
  • Conducts research to find the causes of preterm birth, test the approaches to prevent preterm birth and treat babies that are born preterm.
  • Updates clinical guidelines regularly for mothers with preterm labor to feed the babies, and guidelines to treat infections and respiratory problems for healthcare providers, and home-based follow-up care to improve preterm outcomes.
  • Develop tools to improve the skills of health workers and assess the quality of care provided to preterm babies.
  • Supports countries to implement WHO's antenatal care guidelines.

How can you Support World Prematurity Day?

Simple deeds with the intention to do good can leave a mark. Though we may not be able to stop a premature birth, raising awareness about it and spreading the word does help. The theme for this year’s campaign is, ‘Let them thrive.’ Here are a few suggestions that can be done to create awareness.
  • Change your profile picture on Facebook and Twitter and raise awareness by adding a World Prematurity Day profile picture.
  • Sign-up to automatically post a message of support and awareness of prematurity.
  • Post on World Prematurity Day using #worldprematurityday in social media.
  • Go purple! Wear purple in support of prematurity awareness.
  1. Newborn Care (71) World Prematurity Day, 17 November 2017 - (
  2. Preterm birth - (