In 1990 the international community set the goal of reducing infant mortality (that is, the mortality occurring before 5 years of age) by at least 2/3 before year 2015 (Millennium Development Goal n. 4). We are actually far away from reaching this goal. The biggest problems are related to children under one year of age, who are responsible for about 42% of the deaths occurring before age 5. A closer look to the situation shows that neonatal mortality, as well as other complications occurring in the neonatal period, are more or less directly related to gestational age. The shorter the pregnancy, higher is indeed the risk of infant mortality, or of the serious pathological sequelae of preterm delivery. The latter is indeed recognized, also today, as the main cause of infant mortality and of short-term and long-term morbidity. This is true in all countries, that is also in the richest nations. According to some estimates preterm deliveries, in all countries of the world, are about 13 million per year. This number demonstrates the size of the problem. Both science and ethics should be engaged in a discussion about how to approach the issue of preterm deliveries, which represent a significant problem also at the social level. These premises represent the basis of the present meeting, in which we will try to contribute toward a better knowledge on the topic of preterm deliveries, with the ultimate aim to define the best methods and tools to approach and contrast it.
Domenico Arduini President of the Meeting