Public-Private Coalition Seeks to Prevent Preterm Birth
WASHINGTON, DC, FEB. 8, 2012 – The March of Dimes campaign to reduce medically unnecessary early deliveries is being elevated to the forefront of the nation’s maternal and child health agenda.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced the launch of Strong Start, a multi-faceted perinatal health campaign. This public-private partnership includes expansion of “Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait™” -- the March of Dimes public awareness campaign to let women and health care providers know that if a pregnancy is healthy, it is best to wait for labor to begin on its own, rather than scheduling an induction of labor or a cesarean section.
“Premature birth is a serious health problem, and the public and private collaboration that will be generated by the Strong Start program is the single most important step forward to date in our nation’s prematurity prevention efforts,” said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, March of Dimes president. “Working together to eliminate medically unnecessary early deliveries will reduce the emotional and financial burden of prematurity for thousands of families.”
Nearly a half million babies are born too soon each year in the United States. Preterm birth is the leading cause of newborn death, and babies who survive an early birth often have breathing problems, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities and other health challenges. Recent research has shown that important development of an infant’s brain and lungs occur during the last few weeks of pregnancy. Babies born just a few weeks early have higher rates of hospitalization and illness compared to full-term infants.
Through its “Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait” public awareness campaign, the March of Dimes educates women that if their pregnancy is healthy, it is best to wait for labor to begin on its own. The March of Dimes also is working with hospitals to implement best practices that discourage early elective deliveries before at least 39 completed weeks of gestation.
The March of Dimes awareness campaign includes television, online and print public service advertising, as well as patient education materials. Through Strong Start, these will be co-branded with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and distributed more widely. Additional information for women is available online at marchofdimes.com/39weeks.
In addition, HHS has pledged to encourage participation by the thousands of hospitals across the country that have joined the HHS Partnership for Patients – a national, voluntary effort to improve health care safety and reduce avoidable harm.
The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide and its premier event, March for Babies®, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.