March of Dimes Statement on The Lancet Stillbirth Series

| Tuesday, January 19, 2016

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The following statement was made today by Dr. Edward R.B. McCabe, senior vice president and chief medical officer of the March of Dimes:

The March of Dimes is pleased to join our many colleagues in support of The Lancet series on Ending Preventable Stillbirths.

The estimates of stillbirth burden that The Lancet series presents are stark:  2.6 million third trimester annual stillbirths in 2015, with 10 countries accounting for two-thirds of all stillbirths. This geographic and economic inequality is indelibly and sadly mirrored in other major causes of maternal and newborn mortality and disability, including preterm birth and birth defects.

The Lancet series offers hope, however, in estimating that one in four stillbirths could be prevented by the scaling up and implementation of available interventions in high-burden populations.  It also calls for other actions to accelerate progress towards the target of 12 or fewer stillbirths per 1,000 births in every country by 2030, chief among these being an increase in funding for research into a better understanding of the causal pathways leading to early stillbirth and early preterm birth.

The March of Dimes lauds the series’ spotlight on prevention, a critical domain of public health intervention that has lagged in the past 25 years.  The targeting of modifiable risk factors in adolescence and before and during pregnancy identified in the series—including maternal infections such as malaria and syphilis, non-communicable diseases, nutrition and lifestyle factors, advanced maternal age and prolonged pregnancy—have the potential not only to prevent stillbirth, but also to reduce death and disability from a range of other causes that share these same risks.

March of Dimes also strongly supports the series’ call for improvements in data quality, which could help reduce disparities in stillbirth rates, and for funding for more complete death and stillbirth certificate coverage, especially in conflict and emergency areas. We also need better estimates of the economic costs of stillbirth to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of interventions to reduce rates and lessen the emotional burden on affected families. We have been providing information and resources for bereaved families for many years, including the booklet “From Hurt to Healing.”

The March of Dimes agrees that stillbirths are a global problem that has been neglected for far too long. The Lancet series can be a guide to the many difficult questions that must now be posed and answered:

  • For example, how can we as a global community best partner in accelerating stillbirth prevention? 
  • Building on the recommendations in this series, what should the next steps be for creating a detailed roadmap that could most effectively engage a broad and diverse community around stillbirth prevention in ways that benefit all parties, especially affected families? 

Organizations with different but related missions for adolescent, maternal and newborn health must work together on shared risk factors and common solutions to prevent stillbirth and care for affected families, including reducing the stigma and taboos associated with stillbirth. We are five months into the era of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals which call for new, transformative ways of thinking and bold new ways of working together towards common goals. The March of Dimes believes this Lancet series offers an opportunity to do just this, and we must seize the opportunity.

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.

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