Canadian research aimed at saving the lives and improving health outcomes for vulnerable newborns recently got a boost from a new investment of $6.45 million from the Government of Canada through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Announced by the Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Health, the funds will support CIHR’s Preterm Birth Initiative and will enable new and innovative research along with improvements in care for pregnant women and newborns.

Dr. KS Joseph, a BC Children’s Hospital investigator and professor with the UBC Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, is leading one of the three projects supported by this funding. A national research team led by Dr. Joseph will analyze Canada’s perinatal health care system and investigate how the care provided to moms and babies in the months before and after childbirth can be improved.

“Babies who are born early or very ill have a greater risk of death or life-long health complications,” says Dr. Joseph. “Through this research, we are aiming to give vulnerable newborns a better start in life by providing them with the high level of care they need before and after birth.”

Of the estimated 390,000 babies born each year in Canada, nearly eight per cent are born at less than 37 weeks of pregnancy. Infants born early often require specialized care such as assistance breathing and feeding.

This five-year project will analyze hospital services, emergency transport, access to care and health outcomes in large centres and remote regions with two key goals: (1) to make recommendations that will improve services and outcomes for preterm babies; and (2) to work with the provinces and territories to implement and evaluate these recommendations.

BC Children’s investigators Dr. Laura Arbour, Dr. Jennifer Hutcheon, Dr. Sarka Lisonkova, and Dr. Joseph Ting are among the 68 researchers and clinicians involved in the project.

Dr. Joseph, Dr. Anne Synnes and Dr. Sandesh Shivananda are also contributing to the development of a national network to improve outcomes for preterm infants and their families, another key element of the Preterm Birth Initiative.

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