The NT has one of the highest rate of preterm birth in Australia with preterm birth rates in the Indigenous population double that in the non-Indigenous population.
As many of these women live in remote locations, a preterm birth has a significant impact on the quality of life not only of the mother and baby but also on their communities as they are separated from their families.
Improving access to screening and preterm prevention programme through adequate cervical surveillance and prompt availability of treatment is our first goal in reducing the rate of preterm births in the NT.
A major gap in our knowledge is about the actual aetiology of preterm in our population. Currently we have limited understanding of why the rates are so high. This would be a focus for the long term.
Our first initiative to achieve lower rates of preterm birth, is to collaborate with ultrasound services across the top end of NT to ensure all women are screened to identify those at risk of preterm birth. We would also hope to make changes to improve access to treatment, especially for women in remote locations.
Smoking rates remain high despite dedicated programs and we need ongoing efforts in this area.