Background and aim: Preterm birth is the major cause of infant mortality and morbidity in both developed and developing countries. In Europe, the prevalence rate of premature birth ranges from 5.5 to 11.4% - an average of 7.1% of all live births. In this report, we aim to compare the current health and social policies, as well as practices in 13 EU member states.
Materials and methods: Using desk research, relevant information was gathered from each of the 13 European countries with regard to the prevalence of preterm birth, the cost of preterm birth to healthcare budgets, and the relevant policies, guidelines and practices in place at the national and, in some cases, regional level. The information comes from a range of sources, including government and parent association websites, published scientific literature and media reports.
Results: Despite the growing prevalence and increasing costs, neonatal and preterm infant health rank low on the policy agendas of EU member states.
Conclusion: Based on the findings, there are a number of recommendations that should be considered. The European Union should (i) recognize the growing challenge of prematurity in Europe and its significant impact on infant morbidity and mortality, (ii) improve neonatal health through the development and implementation of coordinated EU health and social policies, (iii) address the lack of comparable European data on prematurity, including prevalence, mortality, acute morbidity and long-term impairment, (iv) also increase the standard of neonatal care across Europe by supporting the development and implementation of European medical guidelines and quality standards, (v) support the development of European postgraduate training programmes in Peri- and Neonatology in order to increase the quality and availability of trained healthcare professionals.