The Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance has welcomed the announcement of $13.7 million in Federal Government funding to bolster its ongoing efforts to lower the rate of preterm birth across Australia.
The announcement, made today by the Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon Greg Hunt, is part of a broader investment of $353.9 million over the next four years to support the health and wellbeing of Australian women, mothers and their babies.
At the event held at the Royal Women’s Hospital, Minister Hunt said the Government was committed to improving health services around Australia for all women and girls, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“As part of today’s significant investment, $13.7 million will help to reduce the rate of preterm births in Australia, which affect 8% of births in Australia and up to 16% among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women,” Minister Hunt said.
Chair of the Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance, Professor John Newnham AM, said discovering how to safely lower the rate of preterm birth needs to be one of our highest priorities in contemporary healthcare.
“Being born too early is the single greatest cause of death in young children in Australia and all similar societies,” Prof Newnham said.
“It remains one of the major causes of disability, both in childhood and adulthood. These disabilities include cerebral palsy, deafness, blindness and learning and behavioural problems.”
The funding will support the expansion of a national education and outreach program to safely lower rates of preterm birth through the Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance.
“The program, known as The Whole Nine Months, has shown to be highly effective in several parts of Australia but there is much more to be done,” Prof Newnham said.
“Australia is home to the world's first national program aiming to safely reduce the rate of early birth across its population.”
Prof Newnham said that over recent decades it has become clear that events before and around birth may have lifelong consequences.
“This understanding has brought obstetric care to the forefront of healthcare. And it is in the field of preterm birth prevention that everyone involved in obstetric care, and the mothers and families that we work with, have the greatest opportunity to play our part in creating a better community for tomorrow.
“This substantial federal funding will enable us to identify prevention strategies that are effective and feasible for our healthcare system, assist with implementation for our various communities, evaluate the benefits of their introduction, identify appropriate research priorities, and mentor the next generation of thought leaders.”
Prof Newnham also welcomed the announcement of federal funding for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme listing of progesterone.
“Progesterone therapies are a key intervention that can be used during a pregnancy to help prevent preterm birth in some women at high risk,” he said.
“We know cost is a significant barrier to optimum pre-natal care, so this government subsidy is a huge step forward in our efforts to give Australian children the best chance of being born healthy at full term.”
This $353.9 million funding commitment builds on the federal Government’s commitment to implementing the five priority areas of the National Women’s Health Strategy 2020–2030 and improving long term health outcomes for women and girls.