The UNICEF-led initiative ‘Semana del Prematuro’ (Week of the Premature Baby) was inaugurated yesterday by the national minister of health and social development, Dr. Luis Martínez, who was joined by numerous representatives of health institutions present.
The week-long event was officially started three years ago after a proposal was brought forth by Alejandro Collia, the minister of health for the province of Buenos Aires, where 23,200 babies are born before the 37th week of pregnancy. Since then, UNICEF Argentina has been implementing the campaign throughout the country.
The main purpose of the week is to raise awareness on the key contributing factors towards premature birth in order to prevent it. From the 30th September to the 6th October, a series of pamphlets and advice sessions will be available in public hospitals and other health institutions to provide information on how to prevent this global problem, and offering medical check ups to pregnant women.
Among the many causes of premature birth, including alcohol consumption, infection or diabetes, and short intervals between pregnancies, reports show that living in violent and stressful conditions have a significant effect on the likelihood of prematurity.
Specialist doctors from a Buenos Aires maternity and infancy clinic today stated that women living in hostile environments, which are also a danger to their mental health, can be susceptible to early births due to the physical and mental strain their bodies are being subjected to.
Furthermore, specialists have claimed that pregnant women suffering from domestic violence do not receive as much medical attention due to the specific circumstances they are living in, including fear of reprisals from their partner if the abuse comes to light.
“Everything that happens to the pregnant woman is passed on to her child, this is why we must generate conditions of care for them; caring for pregnant women is caring for all of society,” Collia stated today. “A woman in stressful conditions, being mistreated or abused while expecting a child, is much more likely to have a premature baby, which will in turn be underweight and suffering from serious health issues.”
Despite the many advances that have been made in the area of maternity and infancy health, death before the first month of life is still one of the main consequences from early births.
In 2010, at the inception of the ‘Semana del Prematuro’, UNICEF established a series of rights that must be afforded to premature babies, including the right to be attended to in adequate health centres. The initiative aims to bring attention to these rights amongst the general public and medical health staff, in order to guarantee the babies’ protection and ensure efficient health services tailored to their needs.
The campaign calls for all public hospitals in Argentina to explicitly adhere to these rights.
As part of the campaign, a number of celebrations in hospitals will be held with babies that were born prematurely and that now are in good health thanks to the work of medical staff.
To find out more information on the campaign, visit www.ms.gba.gov.ar or the UNICEF Argentina website.