2 December 2009
The results of a study carried out by researchers at the University of Leicester, co-funded by leading children’s charity Action Medical Research, are to be published on bmj.com tomorrow (Wednesday 2 December 2009).
The study examined the link between social deprivation and survival after premature birth1. It found thatmothers from the most deprived areas were nearly twice as likely to have a very premature baby compared to those from the least deprived areas. As a result, the mortality rate due to very early birth was almost twice as high in the most deprived areas. However, the researchers found that there were hardly any differences in the survival rates of, or neonatal care provision for, very premature babies born to mothers in deprived areas compared to those in the least deprived areas, suggesting that care for these babies is equitable.
In response to these findings Dr Yolande Harley, Deputy Director of Research at Action Medical Research says: “Premature birth is a common, serious and complex problem. Every year more than 50,000 babies are born too early in the UK, yet little is known about what causes premature birth or how to prevent it.
“Survival rates for premature babies have improved and it is heartening to see that survival rates between socioeconomic groups in the former Trent region appear to be equitable. However, it remains extremely difficult to predict which women will have their babies early. This study highlights the need to learn more about the mechanisms by which risk factors such as deprivation influence the premature birth rate in order to help pave the way for new treatments and prevention strategies.”
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Notes to editors:
1. Smith LK, Draper ES, Manktelow BN, Field DJ.Socioeconomic inequalities in survival and provision of neonatal care: population based study of very preterm infants. BMJ 2009; 339: b4702
This study was also funded by NHS research and development funds from healthcare commissioners in the Trent region.
You can find out more about Action Medical Research’s programme of research into premature birth at www.action.org.uk/our_research/reducing_premature_birth.
For further information please contact:
Clare Airey, Senior Press & PR Officer
Tel: 01403 327480 or 07983 878857
Debra Broadhurst, Director of Communications
Tel: 01403 327423
Action Medical Research is a leading national medical research charity. For nearly 60 years we have been instrumental in significant medical breakthroughs, including the development of the UK polio vaccine and ultrasound scanning in pregnancy. Our research helps babies and children affected by disease and disability. We are currently funding research into serious diseases and conditions, including premature birth and pregnancy complications, disabling conditions such as cerebral palsy, infections such as meningitis and pneumonia, and rare childhood diseases.
Our special appeal, Touching Tiny Lives, funds vital research to help the most sick and vulnerable babies. More research is needed to ensure that all babies, especially babies born prematurely, have the best possible start in life. To date this appeal has raised almost £4m to fund more than 40 high-quality medical research projects into pregnancy complications and premature birth.