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Surgeon General’s Conference on the Prevention of Preterm Birth

Ashton, Diane M. MD, MPH1,6; Lawrence, Hal C. III MD2; Adams, Nelson L. III MD3,4,5; Fleischman, Alan R. MD1,7,8,9

doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e31819bdba3
Current Commentary

To address the serious and seemingly intractable problem of preterm birth, the Surgeon General’s Conference on the Prevention of Preterm Birth convened many of the country’s experts from the public and private sectors of research, public health, and health care delivery to discuss preventive strategies. The purpose of the conference was to increase awareness of preterm birth in the United States, review key findings and reports issued by experts in the field, and establish an agenda for activities in both the public and private sectors to mitigate the problem. The six work groups created focused on biomedical research, epidemiological research, psychosocial and behavioral factors in preterm birth, professional education and training, outreach and communication, and quality of care and health services. Several cross-cutting issues between the work groups were identified, and the conference concluded with the request to the Surgeon General to make the prevention of preterm birth a national public health priority. Reaching this goal through the implementation of the conference recommendations will require new resources to create broad-based research capacity, a vigorous national vital records system, multidisciplinary intervention programs, careful study of factors contributing to racial and ethnic disparities, reinvigorated health professional and consumer education programs, and access to high-quality preconception and perinatal healthcare for all Americans. Clinicians must be adequately informed to initiate activities to prevent this serious problem. Recommendations from this conference will inform Congress and create a national agenda to address the identification of the causes, risk factors, prevention, and treatment of preterm birth.

Many of the country’s foremost experts on preterm birth request the Surgeon General to make the prevention of preterm birth a national public health priority.

1National Office, March of Dimes, White Plains, New York; 2American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Washington, DC; 3Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Jackson North Medical Center, North Miami Beach, Florida; 4National Medical Association, Washington, DC; 5Board of Trustees for Access Health Solutions, Sunrise, Florida; 6SUNY Downstate, Health Science Center at Brooklyn, Brooklyn, New York; 7Advisory Committee to the National Children’s Study at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland; 8Department of Pediatrics and 9Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York.

See related editorial on page 770.

Dr. Spong, Associate Editor of Obstetrics & Gynecology, was not involved in the review of or decision to publish this article.

Corresponding author: Diane M. Ashton, MD, MPH, Deputy Medical Director, March of Dimes, 1275 Mamaroneck Avenue, White Plains, NY 10605; e-mail:

Financial Disclosure The authors did not report any potential conflicts of interest.

© 2009 by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.