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2021 celebration of World Prematurity Day observed at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital

Posted: Wednesday, November 17, 2021. 4:26 pm CST.

By BBN Staff: November 17 is marked worldwide as World Prematurity Day (WPD), and today the staff of the Karl Heusner Memorial hospital, particularly those in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) are observing the event by sharing information.

The day, which is being observed under the 2021 theme ‘ “Zero Separation, Act now! Keep parents and babies born too soon together” is used to spread awareness about what premature births are and the health risks that come with them. This year’s celebration of WPD takes a particular focus on mothers being separated from their premature newborns due to risk of COVID-19 infection.

Neroli Williams, Unit Manager of the KHMH’s NICU told Breaking Belize News that the event has increasing importance in the Belizean context, as incidents of premature birth are rising.

“I recent years we’ve seen a big increase in premature births. For this year alone from January to now we have 49 percent of our admissions being premature babies, which is 139 out of 283, and it’s very alarming,” Williams said.

The NICU, which has the capacity to hold 26 neonates, currently has 17 patients, 13 of whom are receiving critical care. Williams says that while some premature births are unavoidable, expectant mothers can take measures to decrease the risk of premature birth, including receiving proper nutrition during pregnancy, keeping a safe level of exercise, adhering to treatment regiments for mothers who are hypertensive, diabetic or have other underlying conditions, and ensuring to keep clinical appointments with their doctors.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the hospital can only carry out limited awareness activities, which include an information display booth in the hospital lobby, decorating various areas of the hospital purple, and setting u purple lights as a sign of support for neonatal patients.

The World Health Organization notes that a child is considered premature if born before the 37th week of gestation. risk factors associated with premature birth include but are not limited to breathing difficulties due to underdeveloped lungs, degradation of vision with possible blindness, damage to hearing, sensitivity to light, sound, and touch, and digestive problems.

“That is more than 1 in 10 babies. Approximately 1 million children die each year due to complications of preterm birth,” the WHO said.

The Independent reports that November 17 was chosen for World Prematurity day to mark the first time the European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants (EFCNI) met in Rome, Italy in 2008. It was also the same day that a founding member of the EFCNI became a father to a daughter, after having lost his triplets due to preterm birth. The color used to mark the occasion is purple and the symbol for the occasion is a tiny purple sock hanging amongst a line of nine full-sized baby socks, which represents the World Health Organization statistic that one in every 10 babies born worldwide is born prematurely.


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