November 16, 2023

Wayne State launches preterm birth awareness campaign: Go Purple for Prematurity Awareness Month


Wayne State University’s Office of Women’s Health, which serves as the coordinating center of the SOS MATERNITY Network in Michigan, is launching a preterm birth awareness campaign this month.

The office is marking Prematurity Awareness Month by encouraging everyone to go purple! The color symbolizes power, hope, exceptionality, encouragement, and compassion — characteristics embodied by preterm warriors. It’s no surprise that this color has become a worldwide symbol for preterm birth and is associated with World Prematurity Day on Nov. 17.

Join Wayne State in spreading awareness about this global problem and express your support by wearing a purple shirt, jacket, or ribbon Friday and throughout the month of November.

The alarming rise in infant mortality rates has been growing in the United States. According to a recent Vital Statistics Rapid Release report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation has witnessed its first rise in the infant mortality rate in 20 years, exhibiting a 3% increase from 2021. Michigan has mirrored this trend. The leading cause of infant mortality worldwide is preterm birth. One out of 10 babies born preterm — and every 40 seconds one of those infants dies.

Infant and maternal deaths remain a dire health threat in the United States. Despite efforts, the country has the highest maternal mortality rate among high-income nations. In 2022, the March of Dimes Report Card assigned the United States a D+ classification with a national preterm birth rate spike to 10.5% in 2021, marking a 15-year record high. The report card also gave Michigan a D+ for its 10.6%  preterm birth rate. The city of Detroit, with its 15.1 percent rate, received an F grade.

Maternal health risks such pre-eclampsia are closely tied to preterm birth. As much as 60% of preterm infants are born to women without known risk factors. These statistics underline the critical need to alter this trajectory and ensure that all women have timely, equitable access to quality reproductive health care and proven effective interventions.

Premature birth impacts racial and ethnic groups disproportionately, and hits mothers of color especially hard. In the state of Michigan, the preterm birth rate among Black women is 59% higher than the rate among all other women. The preterm birth rate in Detroit is significantly higher for certain demographic groups. Black mothers experience a preterm birth rate of 15.9% in comparison to Whites at 10.4%, Hispanics at 10.3% and Asian/ Pacific Islanders at 7.5%.

Amid these sobering statistics and challenges, the Office of Women's Health at Wayne State University spearheads the SOS MATERNITY Network — the Synergy of Scholars in Maternal and Infant Health Equity. Comprising maternal-fetal medicine physicians across Michigan, the network is committed to preventing preterm birth and preeclampsia, addressing social drivers of health, promoting health equity, and improving maternal and infant morbidity/mortality.

“World Prematurity Month represents a reminder of our shared responsibility to protect the most vulnerable members of our society—pregnant mothers and babies born prematurely,” said Sonia Hassan, M.D., associate vice president of Women’s Health and founder of Wayne State University’s Office of Women’s Health. “Our SOS MATERNITY Network represents a unique alliance, collective statewide commitment of 14 health systems and universities dedicated to safeguarding the well-being of mothers and babies across Michigan by implementing equitable maternal health care access. The structural and medical interventions, along with our many partnerships, will work to improve the health of women and children statewide.”

“Premature birth remains the main cause of infant death with increased risk of disabilities among survivors.”, said Ray Bahado-Singh, M.D., chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology for Corewell Health in southeast Michigan. “Regrettably, significant numbers of our pregnant patients are not benefitting from strategies such as cervix length measurement and aspirin prevention that are known to improve outcomes. In response to this crisis the State of Michigan has funded an ambitious new program, the SOS Network, made up of high-risk pregnancy specialists from the major obstetric institutions. The SOS Network will be deploying screening, prevention and other individual patient support strategies across wide geographic areas of the state.”

“The U.S. is experiencing an epidemic of preterm birth, the leading cause of infant mortality, and southeast Michigan is at the epicenter of this crisis,” said Gregory Goyert, M.D., division head, Maternal Fetal Medicine, Henry Ford Hospital. “To address these dual public health emergencies of severe maternal morbidity/mortality and preterm birth, the SOS MATERNITY Network is launching an ambitious project to implement evidence-based interventions across multiple health care institutions targeted to keep our birthing patients safer and to reduce the devastating impact of preterm birth. The time to talk about these crises is over, now is the time to act.”

As we mark the 20th anniversary of the Prematurity Awareness Month, Wayne State calls on everyone to go purple in support of the fight against premature birth.

For further information, contact email or call 313-577-3526.

Visit the Office of Women’s Health website for more information at

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