The elements of success in a comprehensive state-wide program to safely reduce the rate of preterm birth

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BACKGROUND: In 2014, a whole-of-population and multi-faceted preterm birth prevention program was introduced in Western Australia with the single aim of safely lowering the rate of preterm birth. The program included new clinical guidelines, print and social media, and a dedicated new clinic. In the first full calendar year the rate of preterm birth fell by 7.6% and the reduction extended from the 28-31 week gestational age group upwards.

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to evaluate outcomes in greater depth and to also include the first three years of the program.

STUDY DESIGN: This was a prospective population-based cohort study of perinatal outcomes in singleton pregnancies before and after commencement of the program.

RESULTS: There was a significant reduction in preterm birth in the tertiary center which extended from 28 weeks gestation onwards and was ongoing. In non-tertiary centers there was an initial reduction, but this was not sustained past the first year. The greatest reduction was observed in pregnancies classified at first attendance as low risk. No benefit was observed in the private sector, but a significant reduction was seen in the remote region of the Kimberley where the program was first launched and vaginal progesterone had been made free-of-charge.

CONCLUSION: Preterm birth rates can be safely reduced by a multi-faceted and whole-of-population program but the effectiveness requires continuing effort and will be greatest where the strategies are most targeted.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0234033
Pages (from-to)e0234033
JournalPLoS One
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


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