March of Dimes has been engaged in global activities from the 1940’s. To formalize its global engagements, in 1998, March of Dimes established an office of Global Programs that has been active in bringing the high global toll of birth defects and preterm birth to the attention of governments, policy makers and donor organizations and to offer solutions in response. March of Dimes is renowned worldwide for its contributions to influencing policies and programs for improving the health of mothers and babies. Through the work of its Global Programs, March of Dimes has earned the status of a non-state actor in official relations with World Health Organization (WHO). This is a privilege that WHO grants to an organization that makes significant contributions to the advancement of public health.
March of Dimes has made significant contributions to advancing the programs for improving health of mothers and babies globally. For example, until recently, premature birth and birth defects, which affect 23 million babies worldwide, were not recognized as significant public health priorities by international health agencies, governments or donor organizations. Lack of evidence on the global, regional and country toll, misperceptions about causes of newborn deaths, and limited public awareness led to the inattention to these problems. Recognizing the need for data to highlight the importance of global toll of birth defects and preterm birth, Global Programs led efforts to publish the March of Dimes Global Report on Birth Defects (2006) and Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth (2012). These landmark reports presented first-ever country level data to inform researchers, policy makers and funders about the need for action to prevent birth defects and preterm birth and to reduce death and disability associated with these conditions. Furthermore, by serving on various technical scientific committees and workgroups with international partners (WHO, UNICEF, PAHO, CDC etc.) we ensure that prevention of preterm birth and birth defects remain on the global maternal and newborn health agenda.
March of Dimes Global Programs conducts its work through mission alliances. We partner with organizations that share March of Dimes mission to improve the health of mothers and babies, in a targeted country or region. Through our partnerships, Global Programs has helped develop surveillance systems, education of health professionals, raising public awareness and strengthening parent/patient and other grass-roots organizations in several developing countries.
One example of our partnerships is the March of Dimes Global Network for Maternal and Infant Health® (GNMIH). Through this network, March of Dimes Global Programs has supported programs in China, Brazil, Lebanon, Philippines, Malawi and Uganda. The main aim of the GNMIH is to foster public health education, surveillance and education of health professionals in low- and middle- income countries by leveraging the existing resources of our partners to advance March of Dimes mission globally.
Furthermore, the March of Dimes has conducted and contributed to numerous international conferences and strategic meetings to foster networks among developing and developed country experts and to promote policy, programs and best practices address the issues related to preterm births and birth defects. March of Dimes sponsored International Conferences on the Prevention of Birth Defects and Disabilities in the Developing World (ICBD) is held every other year in a low- or middle-income country. The primary goal of these conferences has been to provide specific practical tools and approaches that developing country participants can use to implement and strengthen services when they return to their respective countries. Participants have included health policy makers, donor organizations, health care providers, experts in data collection and monitoring, researchers, parent-patient organizations and other NGOs and youth volunteers from both the developing and developed world.