US$8 million for innovations to prevent premature birth in Brazil

Marina Lemle

Marina Lemle
Freelance journalist, SciDev.Net

Premature births are a great public health problem in Brazil, as it is in many countries. Each year about 15 million babies in the world are born prematurely, and one million die from preterm birth complications. Complications related to premature birth are the world’s first neonatal mortality cause and the second for children younger than five years old. In Brazil, around 10 per cent of births are premature.

A new fund announced on 26 February, during the 7th IAP conference on Science for Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development, held in Rio de Janeiro this week, will aim to cut the risks through research and innovation.

Brazilian ministries of health and of science and technology, in a partnership with The Bill and Mellinda Gates Foundation, will invest US$8 million in studies and product development projects to enhance the understanding of biological mechanisms that contribute to premature births; develop innovations in risk detection, prevention and treatments; and plan communication programmes.

The call for proposals is called Great Challenges Brazil: Prevention and Management of Premature Birth, and is oriented not only to researchers from universities and research centers, but also to health professionals, NGOs and enterprises.

Candidates may apply until May 7.

Carlos Gadelha

Carlos Gadelha

“The Ministry of Health believes solutions developed in Brazil may have great impact inside and outside the country,” said Carlos Gadelha, Secretary for Science and Technology of the Ministry of Health.

The partnership was signed on April 2012 to develop research and innovation in common areas of interest, such as mother and child health, vaccines, nutrition and infectious diseases control.

“We are opening an innovation agenda with a real and important problem of public health, in a problem-oriented philosophy. It’s very emblematic and there’s a great simbolism in lauching this programme during this meeting, because it shows our effort in combining science with social needs,” said Gadelha.

According to him, the programme will support about 20 project with a great potential impact. “We prefer to focus on a few good projects to have really good results,” Gadelha said.

One of the selection criteria is the project’s plans for  sharing methodologies in a way they can be replicated in other regions and countries so to have a global impact.

Reseacher Maria do Carmo Leal, from Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) presented some data of a study called Nascer no Brasil (To be born in Brazil). She is particularly concerned about the unnecessary C-sections that remove the baby before term. “This is reckless. They will have some injury, but we don’t know what and we don’t measure it. If we could change the intervention culture, premature births would reduce,” said Leal.

She emphazised the fact the new partnership focuses on the same issue as the Rede Cegonha (‘Stork Network’), a Ministry of Health strategy created in 2011 to strengthen assistance to mothers and children from reproductive planning, through pregnancy and labour, and until the second year of the child’s life.

This blog post is part of our coverage of 2013 Global Network of Science Academies (IAP) conference which takes place 24-26 February 2013, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. To read further news and analysis please visit our website.

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