Sens. Alexander and Dodd Praise HELP Committee Passage of Their Bill to Reduce Infant Mortality

Posted on June 28, 2006

U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Chris Dodd (D-CT), members of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, today lauded committee passage of their legislation - the PREEMIE ACT - to expand research on premature births and improve education for expectant mothers. “Premature infants are 14 times more likely to die in their first year than infants who are carried to term,” said Alexander. “Prematurity accounted for 19 percent of all childhood deaths in Tennessee in 2002 and, on average, 214 babies are born preterm in the state each week. 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 and I’m very pleased the committee has approved it.” More than 1,300 babies each day, and over 500,000 each year, including more than 4,100 in Connecticut, are born prematurely,” Dodd said. “Although we do know some risk factors associated with premature births, nearly half have no known cause. We need to ensure that both the education and research efforts associated with prematurity and low birth weight are reaching as many expectant mothers as possible.” “I commend Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY), Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT), and the 38 Senate co-sponsors for their leadership in advancing the PREEMIE bill,” said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. The Prematurity Research Expansion and Education for Mothers Who Deliver Infants Early (PREEMIE) Act aims to reduce infant mortality caused by prematurity by expanding and coordinating the research of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on preterm labor, delivery and care as well as the treatment of low-birthweight babies. The cause of nearly 50 percent of all premature births is unknown. The legislation also creates demonstration projects through the Department of Health and Human Services to educate health professionals and the public on the signs of preterm labor, good nutrition, smoking cessation, stress management, as well as programs to improve treatment and outcomes for premature babies. The bill also authorizes grants for Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Family Support programs for family counseling needs.