Each year more than 500,000 infants are born prematurely, and 50 to 70 percent of them require a range of specialized services. In 2005, costs associated with preterm births in the U. S. were at least $2.2 billion.
Nursing Professor Mary Sullivan has been tracking a group of 213 preterm infants born at Women & Infants Hospital in Providence between 1985-1989 to age 23.
She is the principal investigator of a $2.4 million National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Nursing Research 5-year grant to continue the long collaborative study. It is one of only two studies in the U.S. tracking such long-term health and developmental outcomes.
“Through this research, we have been learning from these now young men and women and their families about the trouble-spots they have experienced throughout their lives,” said Sullivan, who became involved in the original studies in 1990 while earning her doctoral degree.
Specifically, the study will examine adult successes and challenges and how medical, developmental, and social factors influence the adult outcomes of preterm infant survivors. Understanding these processes will allow professionals to make early identification of those at risk to most accurately pinpoint the timing and content of interventions.
“This unique group has allowed us to see and describe over time the challenges the children faced and how they were resolved. Ultimately, this may provide guidance to parents of other premature infants and inform physicians, nurses, and physical and occupational therapists providing care,” Sullivan said.