BABIES are at risk of dying simply through lack of funding, a leading medical research charity claims.
New figures, revealed this week by Action Medical Research, show that the Government is spending only a fraction of its total research budget on preventing premature birth – the single highest cause of baby death in the UK.
The charity found that in the period 2004-05, the government spent just £3.7 million (1) on medical research focusing on prematurity – one of the biggest killers of UK children, under one year old.
Meanwhile, an IPSOS MORI (2) poll commissioned by the charity shows that there is a gross mismatch between the Government’s priorities and those of the public; while most people assume that child health is top of the research agenda, the reality is very different.
According to the survey, on average the public believes that the Government is committing 12% of its total medical research budget to solving prematurity when the true figure is actually just 0.3 % (3).
The survey also revealed that the public on average would like to see the Government committing 24 % of its total resource to solving this problem.
Commenting on the figures, Andrew Proctor, Communications Director at Action Medical Research (4) said:
“This lack of priority for premature babies is completely at odds with what most people would like to see. We assume that our babies’ health will be championed by those we elected to power but it seems they disagree about where they believe our money should be invested.”
Professor Neil Marlow, Professor of Neonatal Medicine at the University of Nottingham (and President of the British Association of Perinatal Medicine) (5) said:
“Neonatal care has dramatically improved the outcome for premature babies based on the results of good research studies. Further benefits are being hampered by this lack of funding, and were it not for the support of charities we would be further than ever from being able to understand the causes and possible treatments for prematurity.”
Fiona Currie, a mother whose daughter (Lauren) died after being born prematurely said:
“If only the government put its hand in its pocket, so much more could be done. So many answers are so close but need more research. Without urgent action to fund that research, other families will suffer and it will have been avoidable.”
Action Medical Research has been campaigning for more funding for research into premature birth through its Stand up for Tiny Lives petition, which has attracted nearly 10,000 signatures. The petition will be handed in to No.10 Downing Street on 21st December 2006. For more information see www.standupfortinylives.org
Notes to editors
1.Following a Freedom for Information request made to the Dept of Health, to include figures from the Dept of Health research budgets and also the Medical Research Council (which were supplied directly by MRC)
2.The survey was conducted by IPSOS MORI based on a representative sample of 1184 adults aged 15+ in Great Britain using an in-home face to face methodology. Fieldwork was conducted between the 8th and 14th December 2006. Results are weighted to be representative of the adult population in Great Britain.
3.Figures on % of government medical research spend allocated to prematurity was calculated by taking the Dept of Health/MRC figures uncovered by Action Medical Research (£3.7m) and putting these over the latest available figure for medical research spend by both agencies, which covered 2005/06 (£1.3b)
4.Action Medical Research has been making breakthroughs for over 50 years, and its life-saving work benefits babies, children and adults. The Charity’s successes include helping develop the UK polio vaccine, ultrasound scanning in pregnancy, the hip replacement operation, and discovering the link between taking folic acid and preventing spina bifida. www.action.org.uk
5.Professor Neil Marlow is President of the British Association of Perinatal Medicine. He was also part of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics Group that produced the report “Critical care decisions in fetal and neonatal medicine: ethical issues” earlier in 2006.
6.FOR MORE INFORMATION OR TO ARRANGE AN INTERVIEW WITH ANY OF THOSE MENTIONED, PLEASE CONTACT
Action Medical Research
01403 327 493
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