SCREENING FOR HEALTH IN VERY PRETERM INFANTS IN EUROPE (SHIPS)
Very preterm birth is associated with motor and cognitive impairment in later life. About 50 000 infants in the EU survive very preterm birth every year and these children are at higher risk of cerebral palsy, visual and auditory deficits, impaired cognitive ability and behavioural problems than infants born at term.
At initial discharge from hospital, the prognosis for each infant is unknown. Many children, even those with risk factors for poor outcome, will experience no health problems in childhood, whereas others may face serious challenges.
Follow-up screening and prevention programmes aim to identify problems early, enable interventions to improve outcome and to allow optimal management of health care. Despite the recognised importance of these programmes, little is known about their actual application and impact. These programmes consume significant resources because of the multidisciplinary staff required for clinical and developmental assessments and interventions, the coordination required to maintain contact with children after discharge and the time input from families.
Aims and expected results
This project assessed the impact of these screening programmes by following the EPICE cohort of babies born before 32 weeks of gestational age in 18 geographically diverse regions in 2011/2012. It collected information on health, healthcare and quality of life of these very preterm children and their families as well as on programme coverage, ability to meet needs, health equity and costs at the population level.
The project also aimed to generate new knowledge about assessment tools and methods. This new knowledge will be used to develop European guidelines for follow-up screening and prevention programmes for very preterm infants, with input from clinicians, researchers, policy-makers, representatives of user groups and families.
4 inter-related studies
To meet these aims, four inter-related studies were carried out in 11 EU countries a multi-disciplinary consortium of clinicians (in obstetrics, paediatrics, and child development), researchers (in epidemiology, health services research and health economics) and a user organisation.