Government of Canada invests in better health for premature babies

Researchers to work together to save the lives of and improve health outcomes for preterm infants

OTTAWA, May 12, 2017 /CNW/ - Each year an estimated 390,000 babies are born in Canada. Although most of these babies reach the average 40 weeks of gestation normally required for full growth and development, nearly 8 percent are born prematurely – at 37 weeks or less. These premature babies face serious complications and are at higher risk of developing chronic health conditions later in life. Even more serious, preterm birth accounts for two-thirds of infant deaths in Canada.

The Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Health, today announced an investment of $6.45 million from the Government of Canada through the Canadian Institutes of Health (CIHR) to support a major research initiative focused on advancing knowledge in preterm birth research and improving the health outcomes for premature babies. This funding will be matched in part by $4.25 million of in-kind support from hospitals across Canada.

The funding will support three separate efforts: 1) A new pan-Canadian preterm birth collaborative research network led by Dr. Prakeshkumar Shah at Sinai Health System in Toronto that will be working to improve health outcomes for premature babies; 2) A research team led by Dr. K.S. Joseph at the University of British Columbia and the BC Children's Hospital that is focusing on improving the system of perinatal care for all mothers and their babies including those born prematurely; and 3) Six research projects that will investigate new ways to predict and prevent preterm birth and improve health outcomes for premature babies.

This research is being funded under the Preterm ‎Birth Initiative led by CIHR's Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health.

Quotes

"Despite significant advances in recent years, premature babies and their families still face significant challenges, in the first days of life and beyond.  This research initiative will help healthcare providers improve care for pregnant women and premature babies across Canada."
Jane Philpott
Minister of Health

"In Canada, we have a strong community of researchers and clinicians working in the field of perinatal health, and together we provide a high standard of care. This initiative is designed to fill gaps in our knowledge and to identify how we can improve health care delivery and practices to improve outcomes for premature babies."
Dr. Shoo Lee
Scientific Director, CIHR Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health

Quick Facts

  • An estimated 390,000 babies are born each year in Canada.
  • The average gestation period normally required for full growth and development of a human baby is 40 weeks. Preterm birth is defined when a baby is born at less than 37 weeks.
  • The preterm birth rate in Canada is 7.8 percent. Preterm birth accounts for two thirds of infant deaths in Canada. The cause of 70 percent of preterm births is unknown.
  • CIHR's Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health (CIHR-IHDCYH) established a Preterm Birth Initiative to better understand how to care for premature babies, to strengthen health care services for high risk pregnancies and premature babies in all regions of the country, and to stimulate new avenues of research in preterm birth.
  • Under the initiative, CIHR-IHDCYH is investing $6.45 million to support a pan-Canadian collaborative research network, a national team to improve the perinatal health care system and six research projects that will investigate new ways to predict and prevent preterm birth and improve health outcomes for premature babies.

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Backgrounder

Backgrounder

Preterm Birth Research Initiative

An estimated 390,000 babies are born each year in Canada. Of these, nearly 8 percent are born prematurely – at less than 37 weeks of gestation. The cause of the majority of preterm births is unknown.

Preterm birth may result in serious health complications for the baby and increase the risk of developing chronic health conditions later in the life; it also accounts for nearly two thirds of infant deaths in Canada. In addition, preterm birth has social and financial impacts on families and additional costs for society in terms of healthcare and education.

CIHR's Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health has established a Preterm Birth Initiative to support new and innovative research ideas as well as improvements in the perinatal health care system and patient outcomes.

The Institute has invested $6.45 million to support three elements under its initiative:

  • A pan-Canadian collaborative preterm birth research network
  • A research team focusing on improving the perinatal health care system in Canada
  • Six research projects focused on catalyzing new research approaches to preventing preterm birth and improving outcomes for babies born preterm

Preterm Birth Network

The Improving Outcomes for Preterm Infants and their Families: A Canadian Collaborative Network led by Dr. Prakeshkumar Shah at Toronto's Sinai Health System will bring together researchers, doctors, nurses, and families from coast-to-coast to improve the delivery of care and consequently the outcomes of preterm birth. The network will conduct research across the continuum of care for extremely preterm infants. Over the next 5 years, the network aims to increase the rate of preterm infant survival without complications by 30%.

Funding: $4.25 million over five years

Perinatal Health Care System Improvement

Overall Canadians benefit from excellent perinatal health care. However, the regionalization of care throughout Canada results in significant variability in maternal and infant outcomes, perinatal care practices, and health care system performance between provinces and territories.

A research team led by Dr. K.S. Joseph at the University of British Columba and the BC Children's Hospital will analyze the perinatal health care system in Canada to determine the impact of regionalization on hospital services, emergency transport, access to care, and health outcomes from mothers and babies. The results will be used to formulate and implement recommendations for optimizing care in collaboration with provincial and territorial health ministries and perinatal care programs.

Funding: $1.0 million over five years

Catalyzing Innovation in Preterm Birth Research

Six research projects were funded, with funding of approximately $200,000 per grant, on health issues commonly affecting premature babies and their mothers.

  • Dr. Karen Benzies at the University of Calgary will study the effect of a family integrated model of care on child development, maternal mental health, and health care costs.
  • Dr. Lawrence McCandless at Simon Fraser University will estimate the cumulative impact of a mother's exposure to environmental contaminants on preterm birth.
  • Dr. Silvia Pagliardini at the University of Alberta will study the control of expiration – or breathing out – in preterm newborns as a way of treating irregular breathing during sleep.
  • Dr. Katherine Ryan at the University of British Columbia will identify the factors in the gut bacteria that protect infants from necrotizing enterocolitis, a serious disease affecting premature babies.
  • Dr. Oksana Shynlova at Toronto's Sinai Health System will study magnetic resonance imaging of a mother's cervix and blood markers as a tool to predict preterm birth.
  • Dr. Graeme Smith at Queen's University will develop new therapeutics for the treatment of pre-eclampsia – or high blood pressure – in pregnant women.

Together these projects will advance our knowledge and understanding of the causes and mechanisms of preterm birth and guide new approaches to prevent preterm birth and improve health outcomes for premature babies.

Funding: A total of $1.2 million over two years

At the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) we know that research has the power to change lives. As Canada's health research investment agency, we collaborate with partners and researchers to support the discoveries and innovations that improve our health and strengthen our health care system.

 

SOURCE Canadian Institutes of Health Research

For further information: Andrew MacKendrick, Office of the Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Health, 613-957-0200; Media Relations, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, 613-941-4563, mediarelations@cihr-irsc.gc.ca

RELATED LINKS
http://www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca

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