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Climate change, pollution ups risk of death for preemies

Dr Chandrakant Laharia, public health expert, told TNIE a large number of pre-term births are preventable with proper scientific medical interventions.

BENGALURU: A new study has found that the environment has a direct and indirect impact on pregnancy, resulting in stillbirths, pre-term birth and babies small for gestational age.

The report ‘Born Too Soon: Decade of Action on Pre-term Birth’ released recently by the World Health Organisation (WHO) said 91% of deaths of pre-term babies among families belonging to low-income and middle-income countries were because of air pollution, despite low carbon emissions when compared to developed countries.

In the report, an estimated 13.4 million babies were born before completing 37 weeks of gestation in 2020. Climate change increased the risk of pre-term births in regions where fossil fuels are burnt in large quantities. Air pollution increased the risk of pre-term babies by 52 per cent in asthmatic mothers, and by 16 per cent due to extreme heat exposure and rising temperatures, explained the report.

Dr Chandrakant Laharia, a public health expert, told TNIE a large number of pre-term births are preventable with proper scientific medical interventions. He added that risk factors such as late or no healthcare during pregnancy, high blood pressure, being obese or underweight are more in low and middle-income countries, where most deaths are also reported. “In 2020, nearly one million newborns (one baby every 40 seconds) died due to pre-term birthing complications, and millions more survive with disabilities,” revealed the report.

Dr Dhananjay Vasudev, a paediatrician, said the country has better neonatal care than what it had a decade ago, improving the survival rate. “Pre-term babies are at higher risk of health complications, especially respiratory ailments, which can be averted with right health care in the initial years,” he added.
Experts recommend governments, policymakers and healthcare providers to join hands to build inclusive policies and create awareness.

 

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