Press Release: March of Dimes
Maitland, FL – Florida again earned a “D” on the 2013 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card, a disappointment for all maternal and health professionals involved statewide.
Florida’s preterm birth rate peaked 2005 through 2008 at 13.8 percent of all live births. It began declining in 2009, hitting a low of 13 percent in 2011. The 2012 preliminary preterm birth rate jumped to 13.7 percent, despite the ongoing work by the March of Dimes and its partners to give more babies a healthy start in life.
“This year’s increase in our preterm birth rate is disappointing,” Dr. Karen Harris, March of Dimes Florida Chapter Program Services Chair. “We expect this to be a one-year setback in our long-term progress toward preventing premature birth and giving more babies a healthy start in life. The programs and partnerships we have put in place provide the necessary framework for the future of newborn health and we expect to see better rates in the coming years.”
March of Dimes staff and state health officials pledged to analyze Florida’s birth statistics to investigate why preterm birth rates increased. They will determine if program changes are needed and if specific groups or regions should be targeted for assistance.
Florida has been a leader in the March of Dimes initiative to encourage women and health care providers to avoid scheduling a medically unnecessary delivery before 39 weeks of pregnancy. Five hospital systems across the state were among the first in the nation to implement a toolkit called “Elimination of Non-medically Indicated (Elective) Deliveries before 39 Weeks Gestational Age.” One published study showed that about 20 percent of late preterm births (34 and 37 weeks of pregnancy) are potentially avoidable with rigorous implementation of policies and programs to prevent these medically unnecessary early deliveries.
While that initiative successfully reduced early term deliveries, those at 37 and 38 weeks of pregnancy, Florida did not see a reduction in the late preterm birth rate, babies born just a few weeks sooner.
Premature birth, birth before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy, is a serious health problem that costs the United States more than $26 billion annually, according to the Institute of Medicine. It is the leading cause of newborn death, and babies who survive an early birth often face the risk of lifetime health challenges, such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities and others. Even babies born just a few weeks early have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than full-term infants. At least 39 weeks of pregnancy are important to a baby’s health because many important organs, including the brain and lungs, are not completely developed until then.
On November 17th, partners from around the world will mark the Third World Prematurity Day in support of the Every Woman Every Child effort led by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. An estimated 15 million babies are born premature and of those more than a million die as a result of their early birth.
Families and volunteers can observe World Prematurity Day by sending their friends a “virtual hug” to show that they care about premature babies. The “Hugs” campaign dramatizes the benefits of Kangaroo care, which is when parents cuddle their premature baby skin-to-skin. Kangaroo care is one of the most comforting things parents can do for their child. It helps keep the baby warm, stabilizes the baby’s heart rate and helps the baby gain weight.
Prematurity Awareness events are happening throughout the country in November. Here in Florida, March of Dimes is encouraging everyone to participate in Blue Jeans for Babies on Friday, November 8. Blue Jeans for Babies is a fun way for companies and schools honor the 1 in 8 babies born preterm in Florida by making a donation to the March of Dimes and wearing your favorite jeans and a purple shirt – the March of Dimes signature color. For more information, including supplies for a successful campaign, visit marchofdimes.com/florida to contact your local office.
In 2013, the March of Dimes celebrates its 75th Anniversary and its ongoing work to help babies get a healthy start in life. Early research led to the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines that all babies still receive. Other breakthroughs include new treatments for premature infants and children with birth defects. About 4 million babies are born each year in the United States, and all have benefitted the March of Dimes life saving research and education.
The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide and its premier event, March for Babies, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.