India Reports Highest Number of Premature Births Globally in 2020: Lancet Report

Rozana Spokesman  | Amanat Thaper

News, Nation

Over 30 Lakh Cases Recorded, Accounting for Over 20% of Worldwide Preterm Births during the Year

Premature Births

NEW-DELHI: A Recent study published in 'The Lancet' magazine has revealed that India witnessed the highest number of premature births globally in 2020, totaling a staggering 30.2 lakh cases. This alarming figure accounted for more than 20 percent of the total cases of preterm births worldwide during the same year, underscoring a critical public health concern.

Research conducted by experts from the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the 'London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine' shed light on the global prevalence of premature births in 2020. The study highlighted that more than half of the premature births occurred in just eight countries, signifying a pressing issue in specific regions.

The countries with the highest incidence of premature births were identified as Pakistan, Nigeria, China, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, and the USA, respectively. This trend is attributed to these nations' substantial populations, high overall birth rates, and relatively weak healthcare systems.

The study emphasized the urgent need to address premature births, which are a leading cause of infant mortality. Approximately 10 lakh infants, or one in 10 babies born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy), faced health complications and sadly lost their lives in 2020 due to associated problems. Preterm infants who survive are at a heightened risk of developing severe health issues and long-term disabilities, including delayed growth, diabetes, and heart disease.

Anshu Banerjee, WHO Director (Maternal, Neonatal, Child, and Adolescent Health), stressed the vulnerability of premature babies and the necessity of providing adequate care to safeguard them from life-threatening health challenges. The findings of the study underscore the critical importance of maternal health and nutrition in preventing preterm births and ensuring the well-being of both mothers and infants. Further efforts are urgently needed to strengthen healthcare systems and support the care and well-being of preterm infants.

The Study employed comprehensive, population-based, and nationally representative data to generate internationally comparable projections for preterm births in 2020. In South Asia, the highest preterm birth rate in 2020 was recorded in Bangladesh (16.2 percent), followed by Pakistan (14.4 percent), and India (13 percent). These statistics emphasize the need for targeted interventions and enhanced healthcare services to reduce the prevalence of preterm births and improve maternal and child health outcomes across the region.