Cerebral Palsy Alliance marks World Prematurity Day

Cerebral Palsy Alliance marks World Prematurity Day
Posted on Wed 17 Nov 2021
  • In Australia, one in 10 babies is cared for in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or special care nursery
  • 50% of people with cerebral palsy have spent time in NICU or an intensive care nursery 
  • Premature birth is the single largest risk factor for cerebral palsy, the most common physical disability in childhood. More than 34,000 Australians are living with cerebral palsy

Wednesday 17 November marks World Prematurity Day, and Cerebral Palsy Alliance is proud to help awareness of preterm births, the disabilities caused by prematurity and the measures that could prevent them.

Some 27,000 babies are born prematurely every year in Australia. While advances in technology, research and treatment has given these babies are much higher chance of survival, prematurity can cause lifelong health issues and challenges.

"Australia has one of the lowest rates of premature birth in the world, but nearly 10 percent of all Australian babies are still born too soon. We’ve seen what we can do if we harness our collective energy to do better, ensure a better quality of life, and give families hope of better outcomes"

Professor Nadia Badawi

With 10% of babies born before 37 weeks, World Prematurity Day seeks to raise awareness of prematurity and the associated risk of neurodevelopmental disorders, including cerebral palsy.

Professor Nadia Badawi, CP Alliance Chair of Cerebral Palsy Research at the University of Sydney and Medical Director and co-Head of the Grace Centre for Newborn Intensive Care at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, said prematurity birth is the single largest risk factor for cerebral palsy, the most common physical disability in childhood.

“Australia has one of the lowest rates of premature birth in the world, but nearly 10 percent of all Australian babies are still born too soon. We’ve seen what we can do if we harness our collective energy to do better, ensure a better quality of life, and give families hope of better outcomes,” she said.

Earlier this year, CPA launched a mini-series exploring premature birth and cerebral palsy as part of the ‘Cerebral Conversations’ podcast series, featuring Professor Badawi, Professor Iona Novak and Joe Darcy, whose daughter Eve was born at 24 weeks.

Head here to listen to Professor Badawi discuss NICU, prematurity, neonatology and early intervention with journalist Tracey Spicer in episode one of CPA’s podcast.

"A baby’s brain grows by about 64% in the first 90 days of life, and 250,000 neurons connect every minute. Everything that gets laid down during this critical period influences your trajectory for life"

Nadine Griffiths

Nadine Griffiths, Clinical Nurse Consultant at the Children’s Hospital Westmead, Grace Centre for Newborn Intensive Care, said that far too many people remain unaware of the life-changing effects of premature birth.

Nadine was a recipient of Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation’s 2020/21 Grants program for her study on the effects of caregiving for infants in a developmentally supportive neonatal setting.

“A baby’s brain grows by about 64% in the first 90 days of life, and 250,000 neurons connect every minute. Everything that gets laid down during this critical period influences your trajectory for life – your health outcomes, social outcomes and work outcomes,” she said.

As a nurse delivering education on developmental care, Nadine’s research grant will focus on providing information about caregiving and infant behavioural and physiological responses in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and beyond. 

Head here to watch a video about Nadine’s research and the critical importance of enabling research for premature babies in neonatal care.

“What we’re fostering in the Neonatal Intensive Care Units are these incredible relationships between infants and their parents. In the NICU we’re really starting to pull it back to caregiving and developmental care and discovering how we can best support the baby’s brain,” she said.  

Among other commitments to improving outcomes for premature babies, CPA is also a proud partner of PREMSTEM, a major research project funded by the European Union which seeks to develop a first of its kind cell therapy to treat brain injury in babies born too soon.

As one of the two major advocacy groups involved in PREMSTEM, CPA is helping to increase the visibility and impact of the project by speeding up the translation of the research findings. As the largest private philanthropic source of cerebral palsy research funding worldwide, CPA is represented in the project by Professor Iona Novak and Dr Megan Finch-Edmondson.

Head here to find out more about PREMSTEM.

Welcome to the wrap up episode of Season One of Cerebral Conversations. Here are some highlights and never heard before stories from the great minds at Cerebral Palsy Alliance (CPA) and our special guests and hosts.

It’s been a weirdly wonderful time for me – you might’ve noticed I didn’t share a column with you in October? That’s because I was racing toward the finish line of my university degree, a double in Arts & International Studies if anyone was wondering. Four years of my life that unfolded in ways I never could’ve predicted. 


Related Services

The first five years of your child’s life are critical in laying the foundations for all areas of learning and development. Early Childhood Intervention is helping children to reach their full potential.

The Early Diagnosis Clinic provides a trusted pathway to obtaining a diagnosis of cerebral palsy enabling quicker access to early interventions, family support and better outcomes for the future.