High Desert Health Community Celebrates First Anniversary of Efforts to Reduce the Region’s High Preterm Birth Rate on World Prematurity Day

March of Dimes Provides Update on Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait Community Program

Victorville, CA | Thursday, November 17, 2016

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Today is World Prematurity Day and March of Dimes, the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, is convening an evening of information sharing for health professionals to update the community on the 2016 efforts to address the region’s high preterm birth rate.  In 2015, March of Dimes brought together over 50 community members, including all four area hospitals and San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, to define the preterm birth priorities and opportunities in the High Desert and to identify local contributing factors in order to address the area’s high racial and ethnic preterm birth rate disparities. The planning sessions lead to the launch of “Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait” -- an intensive collaboration with a goal to prevent preterm birth by focusing on the specific needs of the community, as defined by the community.  The community health leaders determined the focus of “Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait” as Tobacco and Substance Abuse (improve screening and referral), Mental Health (screening and referral for perinatal mood disorders), Preconception and Interconception (education on preterm birth risks and birth spacing /contraception).

“Tonight, we will celebrate what we accomplished together in the High Desert this year and look forward to 2017,” said Marta Bills, March of Dimes MCH Program Director and “Healthy Babies Are Worth The Wait” Team Lead.  “We are expecting nearly 50 health providers and community organizations to further the discussion about reducing preterm birth in the High Desert community.” Joining Ms. Bills, is Dr. Hellen Rodriguez, a perinatologist and Director of Perinatal Services at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center.  Dr. Rodriguez also provides perinatology consultation at five other Los Angeles area community hospitals, as well as being a clinical instructor at UCLA School of Medicine. Tonight’s attendees will discuss the impact of birth spacing, the use of 17P and low dose aspirin and share ways to incorporate these evidence-based care protocols and new clinical strategies into practice to reduce preterm birth in the High Desert.

During its first year, three trainings took place in support of "Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait" community-determined priorities. The first two trainings took place in Victorville and Apple Valley earlier this year and focused on increasing the understanding of maternal mental health (particularly postpartum depression), increasing the number of providers who screen their patients/clients for mental health issues and getting more women to the services they need. Over 50 health care providers from local OB offices and community agencies and doctors attended the maternal mental health trainings.  Participants learned to describe the difference between “Baby Blues” and Postpartum Depression and to identify risk factors that make a woman more susceptible to maternal mental health disorders. Training attendees learned how to use two screening tools that can be given to patients to help identify Postpartum Depression. All participants received a community resource list with local resources for women who have symptoms of Postpartum Depression.

The second training, “Where There’s Smoke, There’s Harm; Helping Our Moms Quit Tobacco and Marijuana” took place October 27 in Victorville and focused on the second priority: Tobacco and Substance Abuse. Local health care providers came together to learn more about smoking cessation and how to identify and support women with tobacco and substance use issues. Attendees learned how to describe the addictive nature of tobacco and other substances and the impact of mom’s use on babies. The health care professionals were trained also provided information on how to refer High Desert women to local resources when they are ready to get help.

In 2014, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, 5,197 babies were born preterm in San Bernardino and Riverside counties – or 14 babies per day born too soon. Babies aren’t fully developed until at least 39 weeks gestation and every week of pregnancy counts. Important development of the brain, lungs, and eyes occurs during the last few weeks of pregnancy. Babies born earlier than 37 weeks gestation are deemed preterm. Babies born too soon may have lifelong health problems such as cerebral palsy, vision and hearing loss, and learning disabilities.

The event will take place tonight at the Spring Valley Lake Country Club in Victorville from 6:00p.m. until 8:30 p.m.

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About March of Dimes

March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies. We support research, lead programs and provide education and advocacy so that every baby can have the best possible start. Building on a successful 80-year legacy of impact and innovation, we empower every mom and every family.

Visit marchofdimes.org or nacersano.org for more information. Visit shareyourstory.org for comfort and support. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter.