March Of Dimes Celebrates 75 Years Of Breakthroughs For Babies During Prematurity Awareness Month

SAYREVILLE, NJ – An estimated 15 million babies around the world are born premature each year and more than one million of them do not survive their early birth. Although the United States has seen six consecutive years of sustained improvement in its preterm birth rate, it has one of the highest rates of preterm birth of any industrialized country.

Next month, as organizations around the world observe World Prematurity Day, the March of Dimes also celebrates its 75th anniversary and its ongoing work to give all babies a healthy start in life.   About 4 million babies are born in the United States each year, and the March of Dimes has helped each and every one through research, education, vaccines, and breakthroughs. Many of these efforts have benefited premature babies.

“Throughout its history, March of Dimes has dedicated itself to giving all babies a healthy start in life,” says Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of March of Dimes.  “Although we have made progress, the U.S. still has the highest preterm birth rate of any industrialized country. We must continue to improve the health of babies by supporting strong policies and bold leadership, and by investing in research and programs to prevent preterm birth so more women will have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies.”

Over 12,000 babies are born prematurely each year in New Jersey. The March of Dimes funds numerous grants and programs in the state to provide research, support and education to help moms have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies:

  • Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait - This initiative aims to reduce preterm birth rates in African-American women in Newark, NJ.  Funded by Johnson & Johnson, the program works with hospitals, heath departments and community organizations to provide education and implement interventions.
  • NICU Family Support - At Capital Health and Newark Beth Israel, this program provides information and comfort to families during the NICU hospitalization of their newborn, the transition home, and in the event of a newborn death.
  • Grants – In 2013, $1.3 million was invested in New Jersey in national research grants, and local community grants and initiatives.

In addition, many companies in New Jersey are participating in Blue Jeans for Babies this November to raise awareness for premature birth.

November 17 will be recognized around the globe as the third annual World Prematurity Day.   More information is available at: http://facebook.worldprematurityday. The Facebook page will feature messages from internationally recognized celebrities.

  • Singer Celine Dion created public service messages in English and French to help raise awareness about the need to prevent preterm birth and the work being done to give more babies a healthy start in life.  The video is available at:
  • Latin Grammy Award winning recording artist, actress, and media personality Thalia, the March of Dimes Global Ambassador, taped a message in Spanish and English. The video is available at:
  • Anne Geddes, world-renowned photographer known for her pictures of infants, filmed a “virtual hug” for the March of Dimes campaign. She donated a one of her photographs of international singer Celine Dion for us to use as a public service announcement. The video of Anne Geddes’ hug, is available at:

As part of World Prematurity Day, families and volunteers can send their friends a “virtual hug” through Facebook and other social media sites to show that they care about premature babies.   The “Hugs” campaign dramatizes the benefits of Kangaroocare, when parents cuddle their premature baby skin-to-skin. Kangaroo care comforts the baby, and also can improve the baby’s health by keeping the baby warm, stabilizing the baby’s heart rate, helping the baby gain weight and reducing discomfort.

The March of Dimes was founded January 1938 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to “lead, direct and unify” the fight against polio. In FDR’s day, polio was an epidemic disease that paralyzed or killed up to 52,000 Americans, mostly children, every year.  The March of Dimes galvanized America to defeat polio and fulfilled FDR’s dream of a nation free of this fearful disease.  It funded the development of the Salk vaccine which was licensed in 1955, as well as the Sabin vaccine which became available in 1962.  Nearly all babies born today still receive a lifesaving polio vaccine.

Now, the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Centers at Stanford University School of Medicine and the Ohio Collaborativeis bringing together the brightest minds from many disciplines -- geneticists, molecular biologists, epidemiologists, engineers, computer scientists and many others -- to work together and find answers to explain and prevent preterm birth.

The March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign is supported by Destination Maternity, the WellPoint Foundation, and gifts from millions of individual donors.