Statement Of Sen. Alexander - Children And Families Subcommittee, Parents Raising Children: Premature Babies

Posted on April 12, 2005

This is another in a series of subcommittee hearings on the job of being a parent in America today. Last year, our subcommittee held six hearings focusing on support for military families raising children. Last month, we held a hearing on how workplace flexibility can help working parents raise children in the world today. This morning I would like to turn our attention to the very start of being a parent - the delivery of the baby, particularly the delivery of some of the most vulnerable babies, premature babies, those born very early and very small. We will focus on what we can do to help lower the premature birth rate, as well as help mothers delivering premature babies and the babies themselves. The percentage of babies born prematurely (three weeks or earlier) has risen to a national average of 12 percent. One in every eight babies is born prematurely. This means that 1,305 babies are born prematurely a day in this country. Unfortunately, in Tennessee, the rate is even higher. Tennessee has the fourth highest rate of preterm births in the country. Fourteen percent of Tennessee babies are born prematurely. In an average week in Tennessee, 210 babies are born prematurely. Premature babies are 14 times more likely to die in the first year of life. As Governor, through my "Healthy Children" initiative, Tennessee achieved the lowest infant mortality rate in the state's history. Unfortunately, these rates are on the rise again. Sen. Dodd and I are co-sponsors of a bill, S. 1726, The Prematurity Research Expansion and Education for Mothers who deliver Infants Early, or "the PREEMIE" Act. Our bill expands research into the causes of prematurity, so that we can reduce the rate of premature births. Our bill also increases research and education on how to care for mothers who deliver prematurely and babies who are born prematurely. In the House, the PREEMIE Act is sponsored by Reps. Upton and Eshoo, and they have sent over a letter in support of this hearing we are holding today. Sens. Lugar and Lincoln have also submitted statements of support for our hearing on this issue. By unanimous consent I ask that their letters be included in the record. By unanimous consent I also ask that outside groups be given one week to submit statements to be included in the record for this hearing. I hope today's hearing will shed some light on the current state of research on premature birth: causes, prevention, best treatment practices and more. Hopefully, we will learn where there are gaps and what we still need to work on to help lower the rate of premature births. By decreasing the rate of premature births, we also hope to reduce infant mortality and disabilities caused by prematurity. I am excited to hear from our witnesses this morning. In our first panel, three experts from our top federal health agencies - The National Institutes of Health, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and The Health Resources and Services Administration - are here to talk with us about research and programs their agencies are involved with related to premature birth. Thank you all for being here with us today. Our second panel will include the president of the March of Dimes, a practicing physician and researcher with experience in the field of premature births, and a mother who delivered a baby girl weighing one pound, 10 ounces when she was just under 26 weeks pregnant. I would also like to thank Sen. Dodd for being here. He is a long-standing supporter of children's issues.