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  • Academy Supports Bipartisan Bills to Fight Premature Birth in U.S.

    The Academy is supporting a bipartisan effort to renew legislation aimed at reducing infant health problems associated with premature birth.

    The Prematurity Research Expansion and Education for Mothers who Deliver Infants Early (PREEMIE) Reauthorization Act of 2023 is key to providing education and research to prevent the health problems posed by premature birth. The last time Congress reauthorized a five-year extension of the act was in 2018, and it is now scheduled to end Dec. 31. For the support to continue, it must again get congressional reauthorization.

    Here are the bills’ sponsors:

    • In the Senate, S 1573 was introduced by Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and co-sponsored by Sen. John Boozman, R-Ariz.
    • In the House Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, D-Calif., introduced HR 3226, co-sponsored by Reps. Michael Burgess, MD, R-Texas; Robin Kelly, D-Ill.; Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del.; Jen Kiggans, R-Va.; and ophthalmologist Mariannette Miller-Meeks, MD, R-Iowa.

    Preterm births and related health risks are a top priority for physicians. The preterm birth rate in the United States has steadily increased over the past few years, reaching 10.5% in 2021. This represents a significant increase from 10.1% in just one year and the highest recorded rate since 2007, or 383,082 preterm births annually.

    Although the legislation does not directly focus on vision or eye care, premature birth can have a significant effect on ocular development, including conditions such as retinopathy of prematurity, refractive error, strabismus, cerebral visual impairment, reduced contrast sensitivity, visual field defects, decreased visual acuity and others.

    Reauthorization would allow certain health care programs to continue by:

    • Renewing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s research and programs on preterm birth, including improved tracking of national data
    • Reauthorizing the Health Resources and Services Administration’s activities, aimed at promoting healthy pregnancies and preventing preterm birth
    • Providing for a new study on the costs, impact of social factors, as well as gaps in public health programs that lead to prematurity and calling for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to make recommendations to prevent preterm birth
    • Establishing an HHS entity to coordinate federal activities and programs related to preterm birth, infant mortality and other adverse birth outcomes

    The Academy will continue to advocate for passage of this important bill aimed at reducing preterm birth and its consequences.