On Monday, November 28th, PROTECT hosted the second webinar of the 2016-2017 academic year. This webinar, “Preterm Birth in Puerto Rico – A Changing Landscape,” was presented by Dr. Caroline Rouse, board certified OB/GYN and fellow in Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The presentation was based on research Rouse has done with Dr. Thomas McElrath, a researcher who is a member of the PROTECT Scientific Advisory Committee. McElrath, who was also present to answer questions after the webinar, is an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School and an attending Physician in Maternal-fetal Medicine at The Brigham & Women’s Hospital. There, he is the Director of the Preterm Prevention Clinic as well as the Principal Investigator of the Life Codes Birth Cohort.

Rouse began her presentation by giving a brief overview of the problems posed worldwide by preterm birth, then shifted to discussing some of the ways in which the issue has been impacting Puerto Rico specifically. She highlighted the recently released 2016 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card for the US and Puerto Rico, pointing out that Puerto Rico received a grade improvement for the first time in the annual grading report’s eight year history. While these statistics are encouraging, Rouse emphasized that there is still much room for improvement and study.

From this point forward, Rouse spent the bulk of her presentation describing research she has been involved in that may offer insight into the role healthcare providers may be playing in the fluctuating preterm birth rate. The study looked at preterm birth taking place at Ashford Presbyterian Community Hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico and found that many preterm births were taking place in a non-spontaneous manner due to provider-initiation. Rouse hopes that the findings of this study may offer important strategizing information to groups like PROTECT and others looking to contribute to a continued preterm birth rate decline in the region.

The full recording of Rouse’s talk will be posted online for viewing in the near future. There will be one more PROTECT webinar this academic year held on December 12th at 1:00pm EST (2:00pm AST). This webinar will be presented by Dr. Brenda Rivera-García, the State Epidemiologist for Puerto Rico in the Puerto Rico Department of Health. The title of her presentation is, “Zika Virus Emerging Disease in Puerto Rico: What Public Health Officers Need to Know.”