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07 Nov 2022

10th Nov 2018

Dr Chua Mei Chien, Senior Consultant and Head, Department of Neonatology and Special Care Nursery, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital


Dr Khoo Poh Choo, Organising Chairperson, World Prematurity Awareness Event, Singapore 2018


Parents and families of ex-preemies




Ladies and Gentlemen


Good morning.



1.             Every year on 17 November, families of children who were born prematurely gather around the world to observe World Prematurity Day, which is a day dedicated to raising awareness of preterm birth and the challenges faced by preterm babies and their families. I am pleased to be able to join you once again for this meaningful event.


2.             Premature birth is defined as a live birth before 37 weeks of gestation. Worldwide, it is estimated that 15 million, or 1 in 10 babies, are born prematurely. In Singapore, about 3,500, or 1 in 11 (out of 39,615) babies, were born prematurely in 2017. These babies, especially those who are born below 35 weeks, are at greater risk of chronic health issues such as hearing and sight problems, delayed development and cerebral palsy. While some do suffer from long-term morbidity and disability and face multiple challenges as they grow up, the majority can go on to live relatively normal lives.

Support network and resources

3.             Understandably, the birth of a premature child often ushers in a period of significant distress for the parents and their families. Indeed, the emotional and financial toll on them can be significant.


4.             Preemies commonly experience a prolonged and difficult hospital stay, where they are also separated from their families. As a result, the first major milestone for their families is often discharge from hospital. As much as it is an occasion to be celebrated, in many of those cases, it also marks the beginning of a long journey for these preemies and their families.


5.             To this end, various programmes are available to support preterm babies and their families. These are organised and maintained by our three maternity public hospitals – KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) (Early Bird Baby Club), Singapore General Hospital (SGH) (Light Weight Club) and National University Hospital (NUH) (Preemie Parent Group). The 'Early Bird Baby Club' for example, was formed in 1997, and comprises parents of ex-preemies and a multidisciplinary team of volunteer nurses, neonatologists, medical social workers and allied health professionals from KKH. Together, the group organises activities which aim to spread awareness of the challenges faced by parents caring for preemies, and supports them through initiatives such as home care services and education programmes.


6.             Mdm Teresa Ng is one such mother who has benefited from this initiative. Her son, Bernard, was born at 24 weeks with a weight of 750g and a length of 31cm. As a result of complications arising from his extreme prematurity, he remained in hospital for over 5 months before being discharged. Thereafter, Teresa had to undertake the arduous task of caring for both Bernard and Zachary, her other son, who at the time was only 6 years old. Fortunately, with the support network and homecare services provided by the ‘Early Bird Baby Club’ and her family’s dedication, they managed to overcome those challenging times. Today, Bernard is 12 years old and is as healthy as any other child except for the occasional ailments.  In his spare time, Bernard enjoys Taekwondo, swimming, gaming, archery and is planning to be vlogger[1] or professional gamer when he grows up.



7.             Premature babies and their families face numerous challenges that many of us are not aware of. However, through a combination of comprehensive support programmes, quality healthcare and parental dedication, many ex-preemies have overcome the odds to not only grow, but thrive. So let us put our hands together once again to salute not only preemies and their families, but also the many volunteers, support groups as well as healthcare professionals who have made this possible.


Thank you.

[1] Video logger

Category: Speeches