Event will raise awareness of the challenges of prematurity and research taking place

Event is for those living with, or looking after preterm youngsters

A special event for those living with, or looking after preterm youngsters aims to raise awareness of the challenges of prematurity and other important child health issues.

The free event, on Friday 17 November in the George Davies Centre at the University of Leicester, will focus on challenges for babies and children born between two and six weeks early and marks World Prematurity Day 2023 when the building will also be lit purple as a show of support. 

Entitled - ‘Born Just a Few Weeks Early; Does it matter?’ – the event has been organised by Professor Elaine Boyle on behalf of The Infant Mortality and Morbidity Studies (TIMMS) research group from the Department of Population Health Sciences at the University. TIMMS carries out world leading research to improve survival and long-term outcomes for babies born preterm. 

Elaine is also the Leicester City Football Club Professor in Child Health – a post she has held since 2019 when the club donated a generous amount to the University to lead a programme of research to benefit the health of Leicester’s Children.

She, along with colleagues will be highlighting exciting current and new research projects, as well as raising awareness of the potential consequences of late preterm and early term birth for children and families. The event is for parents, teachers, healthcare professionals and the public to attend. 

Professor Boyle said: “I’m delighted to host this event to raise awareness of the research my colleagues and I are doing to try to understand how we can improve outcomes for children in Leicester and beyond.  

“Research is now starting to show quite clearly that being born even 2-6 weeks early can lead to problems with health, development and education compared with birth at full term. This affects very large numbers of babies, but because their problems are less severe than the tiniest babies, they have been forgotten by researchers until recently. 

“We need to know why some babies have more difficulties than others so that we can predict who will need more support.” 

Each year, worldwide, around 1 in every 10 babies is born preterm – before 37 weeks of pregnancy. In the UK alone, almost 60,000 babies are born preterm each year. 

Most research has focused on the smallest, sickest, babies who are born extremely preterm – before 28 weeks of pregnancy – but the number of these babies is relatively small.

Leicester has high rates of preterm birth compared with the rest of England, but in 2022, only 150 of these were extremely preterm.  In comparison, almost 3,000 babies were born in the city between two and six weeks early – late preterm and early term. 

Although many do well, a significant proportion will go on to have problems with their health, development and education. Because there are so many babies born at this stage of pregnancy, this is extremely important for families, health care, social care and educational services.

The event takes place between 5pm and 6pm on November 17. Places can be booked via Ticket Tailor