New York Times Interviews USF Public Health Expert on Stillbirths

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April 1, 2008. University of South Florida, College of Public Health, Tampa Bay.
Writers for the New York Times interviewed USF Faculty member Hamisu Salihu, MD, PhD, as a world expert on stillbirth for the April 1, 2008 article entitled “Seeking Answers to Stop Another Stillbirth”. The New York Times story appeared in the publication’s Personal Health section.

Dr. Salihu, Researcher and Associate Professor of Epidemiology in the USF College of Public Health, was interviewed regarding the importance of fetal autopsies, given the limited research that exist to date on the causes of stillbirth.

Stillbirth is defined as the death of a fetus at 20 weeks of gestation or more. Nationwide, experts say in nearly half of all stillbirth cases the cause remains a mystery, leaving couples to grapple with the frightening possibility that this may happen again and again. In the New York Times article, Dr. Hamisu stressed that a fetal autopsy is the single most important step a couple can take in order to know what caused their tragedy to occur and the likelihood it may happen with future pregnancies. “If autopsies were done routinely, we’d know a lot more about the causes of stillbirth and, probably, more about how to prevent them,” said Dr. Salihu, an obstetrician-gynecologist and researcher. The reasons for not having the fetal autopsy vary. In many cases, medical insurance companies may not cover the cost of the autopsy – about $1,000 or more. In other cases, the couple fails to authorize it, overwhelmed by grief.

“a leading researcher in the field…”
USF’s Dr. Salihu, identified in the national story as “a leading researcher in the field”, said physicians should not engage in the common practice of reassuring couples that stillbirth is unlikely to recur, even in cases where the cause of their stillbirth is unknown.

Interviewed at USF Health about the New York Times article, Dr. Salihu had this to say: “My team has been studying stillbirth and stillbirth recurrence for several years now, and as reflected in the New York Times Report, my published work in the field remains a leading reference not only in the United States but the whole world. We and others have delineated certain characteristics that stand out as markers for stillbirth recurrence, and these include: a prior history of stillbirth, a prior history of small for gestational age (SGA) baby, chromosomal or genetic fetal anomalies, and persistent maternal medical conditions which may be genetic or non-genetic. However, in the majority of cases, we do not know the cause (the so-called unexplained stillbirth), and this is perhaps the most frustrating thing for affected couples. This underscores the need for more in-depth research in this relatively neglected area of Infant Health if we are to advance in knowledge and intervention that will be effective in preventing stillbirth or its recurrence.”

National prominence in research…
Dr. Salihu recently received a one-year, $254,000 W.K Kellogg Foundation grant to help community coalitions develop evidence-based action plans to reduce high black infant mortality rates in seven Florida counties. He will work with a team of diverse multidisciplinary faculty and staff at the USF College of Public Health, the Lawton and Rhea Chiles Center for Healthy Mothers and Babies and Florida A&M University.

Click here to view New York Times article/ April 1, 2008/ “Seeking Answers to Stop Another Stillbirth” by Jane E. Brody

Story by Lissette Campos & Anne DeLotto Baier, USF Health Communications