A new collaborative of 200 leading maternal and child health organizations and experts nationwide, including parents and community groups, has been created by the March of Dimes to foster communities in which newborns, especially the most vulnerable, can get the healthiest start to life possible.
The March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign Collaborative aims to achieve equity and demonstrated improvements in the preterm birth rate. Premature birth (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and its complications are the leading causes of death of babies in the United States.
“The high rate of prematurity in the U.S. is an avoidable human tragedy,” says Stacey D. Stewart, president of the March of Dimes. “It is unacceptable to the March of Dimes that babies in this country have different chances of surviving and thriving based simply on where they were born and the circumstances of their birth. The Prematurity Campaign Collaborative will help the March of Dimes fulfill its goal to give every baby a fair chance of being born healthy.”
Babies who survive an early birth often have lifelong health problems such as cerebral palsy, vision and hearing loss, and intellectual disabilities. Even babies born just a few weeks early have a greater risk of respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), feeding difficulties, temperature instability (hypothermia), jaundice and delayed brain development.
A 2006 report from the National Academy of Medicine estimated that in addition to the human toll, the economic costs of prematurity to individuals, families, and society were $26.2 billion annually, including medical and health care, early intervention, and special education.
The rate of preterm birth in the U.S. increased slightly in 2015, according figures from to the National Center for Health Statistics. Across the country, preterm birth rates were nearly 48 percent higher among black women and more than 15 percent higher among American Indian/Alaska Native women compared to white women.
“While we had seen declines in the preterm birth rate over the previous eight years, 2015 data showed that progress has stalled and that the rates actually got worse,” says Wanda Barfield, MD, MPH, FAAP, director, Division of Reproductive Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and a co-chair of the Steering Committee that will guide the work of the Collaborative. “The U.S. leads the world in medical research and care, but we can strive to do more to prevent prematurity, especially in our most vulnerable communities.”
“We can no longer accept the high rates of preterm birth and unjust inequities experienced by women and children in America,” says Paul E. Jarris, MD, MBA, chief medical officer of the March of Dimes and a co-chair of the Steering Committee. “To prevent preterm birth, we have to promote good health for everyone, regardless of their income, education, racial/ethnic background or insurance status.”
The Collaborative’s first virtual meeting is on Monday, March 20, 2:30-4:00 pm Eastern time. Interested organizations and individuals are invited to join the meeting to learn more about the Collaborative’s plans, and may register for the meeting here
Collaborative participants have identified five critical strategies that are now being pursued:
- promoting health equity;
- improving clinical and public health practice;
- expanding research and translating findings to new forms of prevention and treatment;
- developing effective messaging to raise awareness about the urgent problem of prematurity and public policies to prevent it; and
- aligning funding and resources.
For more information, visit the Prematurity Campaign Collaborative at prematurityprevention.org
or follow the group on Twitter at handle @marchofdimes and hashtag #prematuritycollab.