Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait

The last few weeks of pregnancy are really important in a baby’s development. Major organs, like the brain, lungs and liver, are still growing. Eyes and ears are developing. He’s learning to suck and swallow. At least 39 weeks of pregnancy gives a baby all the time he needs to grow before he’s born.

The March of Dimes wants babies to get at least 39 weeks of pregnancy. For pregnant women, we offer information on why getting to at least 39 weeks is so important. For professionals, we encourage participation in quality improvement initiatives aimed at preventing premature birth, including use of the toolkit Elimination of non-medically indicated (elective) deliveries before 39 weeks. And we invite you to participate in a collaborative initiative to eliminate preventable preterm births called Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait® (HBWW).

What is the HBWW background?

In the past 2 decades, the United States has seen a 30 percent increase in preterm birth (before 37 weeks gestation), reaching an all-time high of 12.8 percent in 2006. The increase is due primarily to increases in rates of late preterm birth (34 to 36 weeks gestation). In response, the March of Dimes and the Johnson & Johnson Pediatric Institute collaborated with the Kentucky Department for Public Health to launch an innovative, community-based preterm birth prevention initiative called Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait. Planning began in 2006, and the pilot project ran from 2007 to 2009. The success of HBWW in Kentucky has generated interest from the perinatal health community in implementing similar prematurity prevention programs, and new collaboratives have started in New Jersey and Texas.

The philosophy behind HBWW is that every effort should be made to eliminate preventable preterm births. HBWW interventions include consumer and professional education, public health interventions that augment existing public health services, and clinical interventions in prenatal and pre-/interconception periods. The goals of HBWW are:

  • To decrease preterm births by providing resources to increase knowledge about factors that cause preterm birth
  • To change the attitudes and behaviors of providers and consumers in order to impact community-specific risk factors
  • To implement strategies to prevent preterm births

What is the HBWW implementation manual?

Key to the initiative is engaging the community through collaboration among local- and state-level clinical and public health partners. To help organizations initiate HBWW programs with the March of Dimes chapters in their areas, we’ve created HBWW: Preventing Preterm Births through Community-based Interventions: An Implementation Manual. The purpose of the HBWW manual is to provide tools and resources for program implementation in new sites.

The manual is organized around the five core components (the 5 Ps) of the HBWW model:

  1. Partnerships and collaborations
  2. Provider initiatives
  3. Patient support
  4. Public engagement
  5. Measuring progress

The March of Dimes is pleased to make the HBWW manual available to hospitals, clinicians, community agencies and departments of health in communities across the country. Interested parties are invited to download the manual and work with the March of Dimes in implementing HBWW prematurity prevention projects.

Download a free copy of the toolkit from Registration is required.

How can you get more information about HBWW

If you are interested in starting an HBWW project in your community or if you’d like more information about HBWW, send an email to