The health and educational costs of preterm birth to 18 years of age in Australia

John P. Newnham, Chris Schilling, Stavros Petrou, Jonathan M. Morris, Euan M. Wallace, Kiarna Brown, Lindsay Edwards, Monika M. Skubisz, Scott W. White, Brendan Rynne, Catherine A. Arrese, Dorota A. Doherty

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Abstract

Background: Preterm birth is the greatest cause of death up to five years of age and an important contributor to lifelong disability. There is increasing evidence that a meaningful proportion of early births may be prevented, but widespread introduction of effective preventive strategies will require financial support. 

Aims: This study estimated the economic cost to the Australian government of preterm birth, up to 18 years of age. Materials and 

Methods: A decision-analytic model was developed to estimate the costs of preterm birth in Australia for a hypothetical cohort of 314 814 children, the number of live births in 2016. Costs to Australia’s eight jurisdictions included medical expenditures and additional costs to educational services. 

Results: The total cost of preterm birth to the Australian government associated with the annual cohort was estimated at $1.413 billion (95% CI 1047‒1781). Two-thirds of the costs were borne by healthcare services during the newborn period and one-quarter of the costs by educational services providing special assistance. For each child, the costs were highest for those born at the earliest survivable gestational age, but the larger numbers of children born at later gestational ages contributed heavily to the overall economic burden. 

Conclusion: Preterm birth leaves many people with lifelong disabilities and generates a significant economic burden to society. The costs extend beyond those to the healthcare system and include additional educational needs. Assessments of economic costs should inform economic evaluations of interventions aimed at the prevention or treatment of preterm birth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-61
Number of pages7
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Volume62
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes

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