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Bill to Reduce Preterm Births Passed by Senate

On August 1, the Senate approved, by unanimous consent, the Prematurity Research Expansion and Education for Mothers who deliver Infants Early (PREEMIE) Act (S. 707). The bill was approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee on June 28 (see The Source, 6/30/06).

The PREEMIE Act would allocate $3 million per year for FY2007-2011 for the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish systems for the collection of maternal-infant clinical and biomedical information, including electronic health records, electronic databases, and biobanks, to link with the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System and other epidemiological studies of prematurity in order to track pregnancy outcomes and prevent preterm birth. It also would allocate $10 million per year for FY2007-2011 for the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate the efficacy of existing prenatal and perinatal prevention and treatment programs, and to conduct ongoing epidemiological studies.

The bill would provide $5 million per year for FY2007-2011 for educational outreach to health professionals and the public on preterm birth. It would also authorize $1 million for the establishment of the Interagency Coordinating Council on Prematurity at HHS to coordinate the legislation’s implementation.

“Premature infants are 14 times more likely to die in their first year than infants who are carried to term,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the bill’s sponsor. “Tennessee has the fourth highest rate of preterm births in the nation, and prematurity accounted for 31 percent of all childhood deaths in Tennessee in 2000. We need to do all we can to help parents raise healthy children. This bill targets the earliest and most critical stages of a child’s life.”

Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT), the bill’s original cosponsor, said, “We must do everything we can to provide new mothers with the tools they need to protect the health of their infants during what is an exciting and crucial time.” He continued, saying, “This legislation is an important step in the right direction towards preventing premature births and providing better care for infants born prematurely.”

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