This is the VOA Special English Development Report.
of babies are born too soon and too small. Premature or preterm births are defined
as births at less than thirty-seven weeks.
is the leading cause of death in newborn babies. More than one-fourth of the four
million newborns who die each year around the world were born too early.
that survive can suffer a lifetime of serious health conditions. The examples
include cerebral palsy, blindness,
hearing problems and learning disabilities. Families and communities face emotional,
physical and financial costs.
Howson is the vice president for global programs at the March of Dimes, a
nonprofit group. His group and the World Health Organization recently published
a report called "The
Global and Regional Toll of Preterm Birth."
CHRISTOPHER HOWSON: "Frankly the crisis of preterm
birth is under-recognized, undercounted, undervalued and underfunded. I mean, this
reports shows that thirteen million babies are born every year preterm, and
that over a million of those babies die as a result of being born too early."
these are just estimates; the true numbers could be even higher. More than
eighty-five percent of preterm births happen in Africa and Asia. Africa has the
highest rate, with about four million cases each year.
Chris Howson says many of the causes of
preterm births are related to poverty and weak health-care systems.
CHRISTOPHER HOWSON: "For example, the poor overall
health and nutritional status of women. A high burden of infectious diseases. Lack
of provision of family planning -- allowing a women to decide when to start and
end having children and how to space her children. And also the lack of good
prenatal care programs that might identify problems early on in
births are a problem not just in the developing world. The combined rate in the
United States and Canada is the second highest in the world. Preterm birth
rates in the United States have increased thirty-six percent in the last
This has been
largely the result of two reasons. One is an increase in pregnancies among
women over age thirty-five. The other is an increase in the use of reproductive
therapies. Fertility treatments can produce multiple births, which increases
the risk that the babies will arrive early.
One of the United Nations
Millennium Development Goals for two thousand fifteen is to reduce death rates
in young children by two-thirds. Chris Howson says premature births must be reduced
if that goal is to be met. What is being done about this issue? That will be
our subject next week.
that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by June Simms.
Transcripts and MP3s are at voaspecialenglish.com. I'm Steve Ember.