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Senate Panel Clears Bill to Address Preterm Delivery

On September 19, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee passed, by voice vote, the Prematurity Research Expansion and Education for Mothers who deliver Infants Early Reauthorization Act, known as the PREEMIE Reauthorization Act (S. 1440). The bill would reauthorize the PREEMIE Act (P.L. 109-450) through FY2016; the legislation expired in 2011.

Sponsored by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the measure would expand research activities at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on the causes of preterm delivery, tools to detect and prevent preterm delivery, and the best care and treatment for preterm infants. The legislation also would establish a multicenter clinical research program within NIH to investigate problems in clinical obstetrics, improve outcomes of newborns, and enhance understanding of how DNA and proteins relate to the process leading to preterm birth.

The bill would require the secretary of HHS, acting through the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to conduct epidemiological studies on the factors relating to preterm birth and activities to improve national data to track the burden of preterm birth; $5 million would be authorized annually through FY2016 for such studies and activities.

Under the measure, demonstration projects established by the PREEMIE Act to facilitate public and health care provider education and improve outcomes for preterm babies would be reauthorized and expanded. For instance, S. 1440 would create a new pilot program to test maternity care models designed to reduce the rate of preterm birth. In order to continue and expand such projects, the bill would authorize $5 million annually through FY2016.

The legislation would allow the secretary of HHS to establish the Advisory Committee on Infant Mortality, which would provide advice and recommendations to the secretary on strategies and efforts to reduce infant mortality and improve the health status of pregnant women and infants. It also would require HHS to conduct a study on hospital readmissions of preterm infants and to submit a report to Congress on the findings and recommendations resulting from the study.

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