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FEBRUARY 24, 2003 - The Preeclampsia Foundation today announced it is the recipient of a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant to sponsor the first International Preeclampsia Summit in Seattle, April 4–6, 2003. The grant of $106,800 will support efforts to bring together leading experts in the field of preeclampsia research along with numerous representatives from global health organizations. The goal of the meeting is to identify and prioritize appropriate interventions that can reduce maternal and infant illness and death due to preeclampsia and eclampsia.
As a leading cause of maternal illness and death, preeclampsia affects at least 5 percent of all pregnancies, or more than 6 million births annually.* Preeclampsia is a rapidly progressive condition characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine, and can be deadly to mother and baby. If untreated, preeclampsia can escalate to eclampsia, causing seizures. Nearly two hundred women every day – more than 60,000 women a year – die from eclampsia alone.**
First described by Hippocrates in the fourth century B.C., preeclampsia is often referred to as a rare disease; however, it is one of the top five causes of maternal death in the world. It is also the No. 1 reason doctors choose to deliver a baby prematurely and as such is responsible for 15 percent of all premature births.***
“Most complications of pregnancy are clear-cut — bleeding, infection, obstructed delivery — and we know what the problem is. Preeclampsia is less clear; it is not well understood, not well studied, and as a result, marginalized in public health agendas,” said Anne Garrett, executive director of the Preeclampsia Foundation.
“Discovering solutions to improve the health and survival of mothers and their newborns is essential to achieving global health equity,” said Dr. Gordon Perkin, director of Reproductive & Child Health at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “The International Preeclampsia Summit will help bring about urgently needed solutions to a leading cause of maternal illness and death that deserves greater attention.”