UCSF Benioff Children's Hospitals today announced a $100 million global initiative to address the epidemic of premature birth, the leading cause of death for newborns and the second leading cause of death for children under five. The 10-year, global initiative will be jointly funded by Lynne and Marc Benioff in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Approximately 15 million babies are born premature each year, and more than one million of these infants die within the first 28 days after birth due to complications of prematurity. UCSF Benioff Children's Hospitals will lead a collaborative global effort aimed at reducing the number of children born premature, and protecting the health of preterm babies and women around the world.
Working together with scientists in other regions of the world, the initiative will focus on the biological, behavioral and social factors that drive prematurity—defined as being born before 37 weeks—and how to protect children from its consequences. They will explore the barriers at the family, community and society level that prevent good practices from being widely adopted, and they will contribute to the development of new drugs, diagnostic tools and medical devices.
Jaime Sepulveda, MD, MPH, MSc, DrSc, executive director of UCSF Global Health Sciences will co-direct the Initiative with Larry Rand, MD, director of Perinatal Services at the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital San Francisco Fetal Treatment Center and the Principal Investigator of the Preterm Birth Initiative.
"Premature birth is one area in global health where little progress has been made," said Sepulveda. "We will work with local communities and global partners to translate science into solutions that make a measurable impact on the health of babies and mothers."
"We want to move away from the model of isolated impact, in which one organization tries to do all the work or make all the discoveries," said Rand, who holds the Lynne and Marc Benioff Endowed Chair in Maternal Fetal Medicine at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital San Francisco. "To be successful, this has to be a team effort. Effective collaboration will accelerate discovery, increase access to interventions that work and optimize the project's impact on rates of early preterm birth and mortality."