In 2015, when a group of some 60 UC San Francisco researchers and clinicians sat down to tackle the epidemic of preterm birth, the lives of 15 million children were at stake.
That’s how many children are born premature (before 37 weeks’ gestation) each year worldwide. One million die within the first 28 days of life, and preterm birth is the largest killer of children under 5. Those infants who do survive are at considerably increased risk for a lifetime of health challenges – from neurological disorders to obesity, hypertension and diabetes. Yet despite the devastating impact – which disproportionately affects disadvantaged communities – in recent years there has been little improvement in slowing the rate of preterm birth.