Fresno County is home to one of the highest preterm birth rates in California with over 1,500 babies born premature every year. To raise awareness of this local (and global) epidemic, the Larry C. Shehadey Clock Tower at the Save Mart Center was lit up in purple to commemorate World Prematurity Day, held annually on November 17th.
In May, it was announced that Fresno County would be one of six sites nationwide to participate in the UC San Francisco Preterm Birth Initiative (PTBi), a $100 million 10-year global initiative that will address the problem of premature birth, which is the leading cause of death for newborns and the second leading cause of death for children under five years of age. The PTBi is jointly funded by the Marc and Lynn Benioff Foundation in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 15 million babies are born premature, defined as being born before 37 weeks of gestation. This number will continue to rise without current, cost-effective interventions in place. The Central Valley Health Policy Institute at Fresno State has been researching the issue of preterm birth for the past 10 years and will be part of the wider team of health and education leaders working to gather data on the biological, behavioral and social factors that drive prematurity.