The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the March of Dimes are kicking off Prematurity Awareness Month this November with new initiatives designed to reduce preterm birth and early elective deliveries in Rhode Island. The partnership includes an educational campaign, a November 14 conference on group prenatal visits, and a November 21 Prematurity Summit.
In 2010, Association of State and Territorial Health Officers President and Texas Commissioner of Health Services David Lakey, MD issued a challenge to decrease the country's preterm birth rates by 8 percent by 2014. This challenge, endorsed by the March of Dimes, would lower Rhode Island's preterm birth rate to 10.4 percent from a baseline of 11.3 percent in 2009, preventing 156 preterm births. Based on 2012 provisional data of 10.9 percent, Rhode Island is positioned to surpass the 2014 goal.
"We are proud that our state's preterm birth rate is among the best in the nation, but too many babies are still born too soon each year," said Michael Fine, MD, Director of Health. "Now that preterm birth prevention policies and programs have begun to show success, working together and redoubling our efforts will help us make Rhode Island the healthiest state in the nation."
"We don't know everything about preterm birth, but we know there are steps that can make a difference, such as improving access to healthcare, helping women quit smoking, and ending early elective deliveries," said Dr. Maureen Phipps, Chair, RI March of Dimes Board of Directors. "We applaud our partners in public health for taking the initiative to implement proven strategies to address this problem."
Preterm birth -- before 37 weeks of pregnancy -- is a serious health problem that costs the United States more than $26 billion annually, according to a 2006 Institute of Medicine report. It is the leading cause of newborn death, and one million babies worldwide die each year due to preterm birth. Babies who survive an early birth often face lifelong health challenges, such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, and others.
One way state health officials are tackling the issue is by conducting an educational campaign with the March of Dimes to let pregnant women and their healthcare providers know that "Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait." Through advertising and patient education, women will be advised that if their pregnancy is healthy, it's best to wait for labor to begin on its own rather than scheduling an induction or cesarean. Other initiatives helping Rhode Island women have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies include a statewide Task Force on Preterm Births, efforts to enhance the delivery of group prenatal care programs, and strong advocacy efforts.
Physicians, nurses, social workers, other allied health professionals, and community partners can take advantage of two preterm birth-related professional development opportunities this month. "Strength in Numbers," a conference on Thursday, November 14 at Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, will share the experiences of Memorial and the March of Dimes as partners in developing a group prenatal care program. In addition, the March of Dimes will host its annual Prematurity Summit on Thursday, November 21 from 7-10am at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island. The program, titled "Reducing Premature Birth: National and Local Perspectives on Research, Policy and Community Programs," will provide continuing education credits for physicians, nurses, and social workers. For more information or to register, see www.marchofdimes.com/rhodeisland
The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide, 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.
For additional health information and resources for pregnant women, visit www.health.ri.gov/for/pregnantwomen, like the Rhode Island Department of Health on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Pinterest.