The nonprofit March of Dimes, a leading voice for pregnancy and baby health, has launched an initiative involving 200 top U.S. maternal and child health experts and organizations. The goal of the Prematurity Campaign Collaborative is to give newborns — especially the most vulnerable — the healthiest possible start to life.
Premature babies (those born before 37 weeks of pregnancy) who survive into adulthood often suffer lifelong health problems including cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities, blindness and deafness. In addition, prematurity and its associated complications kill more babies in the United States than any other cause. The National Academy of Medicine estimated in 2006 that premature births costs U.S. individuals, families and society in general $26.2 billion a year.
“The high rate of prematurity in the U.S. is an avoidable human tragedy,” March of Dimes President Stacey D. Stewart said in a news release. “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.”
Preterm birth rates among black women were 48 percent higher than among white women in 2015, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. They were also 15 percent higher among American Indian and Alaska Native 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,” said Wanda Barfield, MD, MPH, director of the reproductive health division at the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “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,” said Paul E. Jarris, MD, MBA, chief medical officer of the March of Dimes and a co-chair of the campaign’s 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 campaign’s first virtual meeting took place March 20. Its goals include promoting health equity, improving clinical and public health practice, funding more research and interventions aimed at preventing and treating prematurity, and raising awareness about prematurity. Those interested may follow the campaign on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.