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 November is Prematurity Awareness Month

Alliance Members, Like AMCHP and its Members, Help March of Dimes Grow Awareness for Preterm Birth Throughout the Country

By Phyllis Williams-Thompson, MS, CIM
National Manager, Prematurity Campaign Outreach, March of Dines

Every year, more than half a million babies are born too soon in the United States. However, according to the March of Dimes 2011 Premature Birth Report Card, preterm birth rates improved in almost every state between 2006 and 2009, and in several states the change was more than 10 percent.

"The three-year improvement in the U.S. preterm birth rate means that 40,000 more babies were given a healthy start in life and spared the risk of life-long health consequences of an early birth," said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. "It means that, nationwide, we saved at least $2 billion in health care and socio-economic costs. Now we owe it to the other half a million infants who were born too soon to work together to give them the same chance."

Premature birth costs society more than $26 billion a year and takes a high toll on families. Babies born just a few weeks early are at risk of severe health problems and lifelong disabilities. Premature birth is the number one killer of newborns.

The Prematurity Campaign

In 2003, the March of Dimes launched the Prematurity Campaign to address the crisis and help families have full-term, healthy babies. We have more than 50 Prematurity Campaign alliance members we collaborate with on campaign initiatives and AMCHP is one of those alliance members that help us with increasing awareness. March of Dimes funds lifesaving research and speaks out for legislation that improves care for moms and babies. Worldwide, 13 million babies are born prematurely each year. In 2008, we expanded the campaign globally.

Nov. 17 marks World Prematurity Day, and the March of Dimes and our partner organizations worldwide are asking everyone to help spread the word on the serious problem of premature birth.

Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait (HBWW)

We also understand the importance of implementing evidence-based models such as Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait®, a program that focuses on preventing preventable preterm birth. This new collaborative model is already showing signs of success. A new Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait™ education campaign began in 2011 to educate women with healthy pregnancies about the importance of waiting at least 39 weeks to give birth.

HBWW Background

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:

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

Implementation Manual

To help organizations initiate HBWW programs with the March of Dimes chapters in their areas, we have created HBWW: Preventing Preterm Births through Community-based Interventions: An Implementation Manual. 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. Download a free copy of the toolkit from the Prematurity Prevention Resource Center. Registration is required.

To raise awareness around World Prematurity Day and Prematurity Awareness Month, AMCHP and the March of Dimes will host a national webinar, "A Year of Progress Utilizing the Less Than 39 Weeks Toolkit: Building Successful Partnerships with clinicians, health departments and the March of Dimes" on Nov. 15 from 3-4:30 p.m. EST.

The 90-minute webinar will be moderated by Associate State Director of the March of Dimes California Chapter & Director of Big 5 State Prematurity Initiatives, Leslie Kowalewski. The featured presenters include, Medical Director, Perinatal Institute, Loma Linda University, Bryan Oshiro, MD; Acting Division Chief, Maternal, Child & Adolescent Health Program of the California Department of Health, Shabbir Ahmad, DVM, MS, PhD; and National Director Prematurity Campaign & Mission Marketing, Mary Giammarino, MPP.

Space is limited. Reserve your webinar seat now. For inquiries about the webinar, please e-mail alliances@