About the March of Dimes

The Mission
The mission of the March of Dimes is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.  The foundation carries out this mission through programs of research, community services, education and advocacy to save babies.

The March of Dimes uses funds wisely.
The March of Dimes has a long and distinguished record of fiscal responsibility. The funds contributed are spent wisely: a full 75 percent of every dollar spent goes to programs to prevent premature birth and birth defects.

Where the money goes.

March of Dimes Milestones and Timeline

January 1938
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt establishes the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis - a unique partnership of scientists and volunteers - to conquer polio.

Eddie Cantor creates the first grassroots fund-raiser for the National Foundation, asking the public to send dimes to President Roosevelt at the White House. The effort was called the March of Dimes, which later became part of the official name of the foundation.

March of Dimes first research grant goes to Yale University.

March of Dimes first chapter is established in Coshocton, Ohio.

March of Dimes provides first iron lung to assist polio victims.

March of Dimes selects Dr. Jonas Salk to lead research on classifying polio viruses.

First Mothers March launched in Phoenix, Arizona., to raise emergency funding during a serious polio outbreak.

Virginia Apgar, M.D., develops the Apgar Score, a clinical system for evaluating an infant's physical condition at birth.  By the end of the decade, it becomes the standard practice in obstetrical care throughout the world, and remains so today.  Her scoring system was the crucial first step in the evolution of medical subspecialties focused on newborns.  Dr. Apgar worked from 1959 until her death in 1974 for the March of Dimes.

Dr. Salk confirms the feasibility of a killed-virus vaccine for polio.

March of Dimes runs field trials of Salk vaccine with 1,830,000 schoolchildren participating. The test is the largest peacetime mobilization of volunteers in history.

April 12, 1955
Salk vaccine is declared "safe, effective and potent."

March of Dimes initiates the first concerted efforts to save babies from birth defects.

March of Dimes establishes The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif.

Earlier March of Dimes work pays off in the development of the PKU test. This allows some forms of mental retardation to be prevented.

Oral polio vaccine, developed by Dr. Albert Sabin with funding from the March of Dimes is licensed.

March of Dimes funds the first successful bone marrow transplant to correct a birth defect.

First WalkAmerica events take place in San Antonio, Texas, and Columbus, Ohio.

March of Dimes researchers discover that alcohol consumption during pregnancy causes birth defects.

March of Dimes funds first in utero treatment for a birth defect.

April Murphy is first baby to be successfully treated in the womb for birth defects

March of Dimes calls for creation of a regional system of newborn intensive care units to save sick babies.

March of Dimes funds first prenatal diagnosis of sickle cell anemia.

March of Dimes funds first successful surgery to correct a urinary blockage in an unborn baby.

March of Dimes launches "Babies & You" program to bring prenatal education to the workplace.

March of Dimes funds development of a newborn screening test for biotinidase deficiency, which can cause mental retardation and death unless treated promptly.

March of Dimes funds research leading to the use of surfactant to treat respiratory distress syndrome(RDS). Danielle Cofey is one of first infants to be treated with life-saving surfactant therapy.

March of Dimes grantee performs the first in utero surgery to  repair a diaphragmatic hernia in an unborn baby.

Blake Schultz is first baby to undergo lifesaving fetal surgery to correct a diaphragmatic hernia.

March of Dimes funds research showing that delivering babies with spina bifida by cesarean section may save them from paralysis.

March of Dimes grantees identify genes responsible for Marfan syndrome -- an inherited disorder of connective tissue, and fragile X syndrome -- the most common known familial cause of mental retardation.

March of Dimes grantee locates a gene connected with 70 to 80 percent of cases of acute leukemia in infants.

March of Dimes grantees clone gene responsible for X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy a rare and often fatal hereditary disease characterized by adrenal failure and paralysis.

Ashanthi DeSilva and Cynthia Cutshall become first Americans to undergo gene therapy.

March of Dimes launches nationwide campaign urging women to take the B vitamin folic acid to help prevent neural tube birth defects.

March of Dimes grantees share Nobel Prize for research on fruit flies that identified master genes that control the early structural development of the body.

March of Dimes funds research showing that treating certain infections with antibiotics reduces the risk of preterm delivery.

March of Dimes-supported research on nitric oxide leads to a new treatment to save premature babies from persistent pulmonary hypertension, a deadly lung disorder.

March of Dimes volunteers help secure passage of the Mothers' and Newborns' Health Protection Act, guaranteeing a minimum hospital stay of 48 hours following delivery.

With March of Dimes support, the FDA approves fortification of grain products with folic acid.

March of Dimes grantee successfully uses deactivated HIV viruses as delivery systems for healthy genes in gene therapy.

March of Dimes grantee finds that gene abnormalities in the development of certain enzymes involved in folic acid metabolism may contribute to susceptibility to neural tube defects.

March of Dimes grantee identifies a gene for Alagille syndrome, a rare inherited disorder that causes abnormalities in different parts of the body.

March of Dimes volunteers help secure passage of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), to provide health care coverage for up to 5 million children.

March of Dimes volunteers help secure passage of the Birth Defects Prevention Act, establishing a nationwide network of birth defects monitoring and research programs.

March of Dimes research leads to one of the first successful surgeries to treat spina bifida before birth. Noah Kipfmiller is one of the first babies to undergo this pioneering open-womb surgical procedure.

March of Dimes grantees successfully use gene therapy to treat hemophilia and retinitis pigmentosa in the lab.

March of Dimes volunteers developed key provisions and worked to enact The Children's Health Act of 2000. The law creates a National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and helps states to expand newborn screening.

March of Dimes launches a partnership with the Dutch-based de Waal Foundation to provide prenatal care and birth defects prevention information to women in Ecuador, Honduras and Nicaragua.

March of Dimes grantees win the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology for their discoveries on genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death (apoptosis).

The March of Dimes promotion of folic acid fortification and awareness contributed to a 21 percent decline in the occurrence of neural tube birth defects between 1995 - 2000.

March of Dimes launches a national, multiyear, multimillion-dollar campaign to prevent premature birth and raise awareness of its serious consequences.

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Send your questions to our health information specialists at askus@marchofdimes.org