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March of Dimes Rhode Island Chapter

220 West Exchange St. #003

Providence, RI  02903

(401) 454-1911

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    March of Dimes Raises Awareness About Racial Disparities in Premature Birth for Black History Month

    Rochelle Darman, State Director of Marketing and Communications, March of Dimes, 754-300-2610, rdarman@marchofdimes.org

    Esteban Meneses, Public Relations Coordinator, March of Dimes, 321-274-8683, emeneses@marchofdimes.org

    Maitland, Florida, February 01, 2014 —

    February is Black History Month, an annual celebration of the rich African-American culture, and the March of Dimes seeks to raise awareness about the significant disparity in prematurity rates between black infants and those of other races. While birth outcomes in the United States show considerable variation by race and ethnicity, the factors that influence disparities in perinatal health care are complex and not fully understood.

    According to the March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card, released in November, the preterm birth rate (all live births less than 37 completed weeks gestation) for black infants was 17.5 percent, followed by Hispanic, 12.8 percent; Asian, 11.5 percent; and white and Native American at 11.1 percent each. Racial and ethnic disparities also occur in other birth outcomes, such as low birthweight and infant mortality.

    “This important celebration of the African-American heritage is a great opportunity to talk about the high prematurity rates that persist among the black community,” said Dr. Karen Harris, Chair of the Program Services Committee for the Florida Chapter of the March of Dimes. “Although we have no definitive explanations for why prematurity affects this group more often than others, poor prenatal care, malnutrition, socioeconomic status, genetics, stress and unhealthy habits, such as smoking, might all be contributing factors.”

    According to the Health Disparities and Inequalities Reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the years 2006 to 2010 the preterm birth rate for black infants decreased by eight percent; however, it still remained approximately 60 percent higher that of white infants. The CDC also reports that black infants have had the highest risk for preterm birth since at least 1981, when comparable data on gestational age have been available

    “Although the prematurity rate in general began to decline in 2007, black infants are still far more likely to be born late preterm than white infants,” added Dr. Harris. “We are urging the state to support funding and innovative practices that address fundamental medical and social factors related to racial disparities in premature birth.” March of Dimes is also strongly committed to the goal set by Healthy People 2020, the public health objectives for the nation, to eliminate disparities in perinatal health, through the implementation of its multi-million dollar Prematurity Campaign.

    In addition to advocacy efforts for funding for offices of minority health and for programs that target health disparities, the March of Dimes awards grants to support research and programs that benefit minority populations. In 2012 the organization funded Sarasota County’s “Save My Life – Pre- and Inter-conception Education for African-American Families” program, seeking to provide education and support to African-American women of childbearing age who are in need of better health care, to help them have healthy pregnancies and babies.

    March of Dimes Florida Chapter is also involved with other organizations that target minority groups, such as the African-American fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha and the sorority Zeta Phi Beta, whose Stork’s Nest program seeks to increase the prevention of birth defects and infant mortality among black women and to promote healthy behaviors during pregnancy.

    For more than 75 years, moms and babies have benefited from March of Dimes research, education, vaccines, and breakthroughs. Find out how you can help raise funds to prevent premature birth and birth defects by walking in March for Babies at marchforbabies.org. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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