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Premature babies are not getting the care they need!

prematurebabiesneed.jpgA recent study showed that premature infants from low-income families don’t get the health care they need. This problem is commonly observed in extremely premature babies born at less than 3.3 pounds. These infants are vulnerable to vision, hearing and speech impairments.

According to researchers at the Boston University’s School of Medicine, babies born as early as the 6th month of pregnancy can now survive but most of them may suffer from serious health problems because their lungs are not yet fully developed. They may have breathing problems which may lead to ‘chronic lung disease.’ Their brains won’t get enough oxygen which may affect their mental development and other body functions. Thus, a critical follow-up care is needed in their first two years of life.

However, only 20% of the premature babies with hearing problems get to see a specialist within the first 6 months of their life while only 23% receive eye exams at age 1 to 2 years. This data is based on the medical records of 2,182 very low-birth-weight children born between 1996 and 1998 from poor families on Medicaid in South Carolina.

The research also showed that poor and black women are prone to having very low birth-weight babies. It is possible that some families with several children may be overwhelmed by many doctor’s appointments in different places. It is not clear, however, whether it`s the social conditions or the healthcare system that is the root of the problem since this study only looked at one state.

But whatever the case may be, there is clearly a need for a support system to improve the coordination of care for children with complex conditions.

Wang et al., Population-Based Assessments of Ophthalmologic and Audiologic Follow-up in Children with Very Low Birth Weight Enrolled in Medicaid: A Quality-of-Care Study. PEDIATRICS Vol. 121 No. 2 February 2008, pp. e278-e285.

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