Posts Tagged ‘infant mortality’

September is Infant Mortality Awareness Month

Monday, September 10th, 2018

September is Infant Mortality Awareness Month. It’s a time for us to bring attention to the fact that, sadly, babies die during infancy. And it’s a time to talk about why we must take action to help fix this problem.

Infant mortality is the death of a baby before his first birthday. According to the CDC, in 2016 the infant mortality rate in the United States was 5.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. The rate for Non-Hispanic black was much higher at 11.4 per 1,000 live births.

These facts are alarming. March of Dimes is working hard in advocacy, education and research to level the playing field so all moms and babies are healthy.

What are the leading causes of infant mortality in the U.S.? 

  1. Birth defects
  2. Premature birth and low birthweight
  3. Sudden infant death syndrome (also called SIDS)
  4. Pregnancy complications
  5. Injuries (such as suffocation)

What can you do?

Not all causes of infant mortality can be prevented. But here’s what you can do to help keep your baby healthy and reduce the risk of infant death:

Before pregnancy

  • Take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid. Taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects. Some studies show that it also may help prevent heart defects and cleft lip and palate in your baby.
  • Get a preconception checkup. This is a medical checkup you get before pregnancy. At this checkup, your provider looks for health conditions that may affect your pregnancy and the health of your baby. Your provider can help you get treated for these conditions to help your baby be born healthy.
  • Get to a healthy weight. Getting to a healthy weight before pregnancy may help prevent complications during pregnancy. Eat healthy foods and do something active every day.

During pregnancy

  • Get early and regular prenatal care. Go to all your prenatal care checkups, even if you’re feeling fine. This lets your provider make sure you and your baby are healthy. She also can spot and treat any problems that you may have during pregnancy.
  • Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or use harmful drugs. Alcohol, drugs and chemicals from smoke can pass directly through the umbilical cord to your baby. This can cause serious problems during pregnancy, including miscarriage, birth defects and premature birth.

After your baby’s birth

  • Make sure your baby sleeps safely. Put your baby to sleep on her back on a flat, firm surface (like a crib mattress). The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that you and your baby sleep in the same room, but not in the same bed, for the first year of your baby’s life, but at least for the first 6 months.
  • Wait at least 18 months after having a baby before getting pregnant again. Getting pregnant again before 18 months can increase the chance in your next pregnancy of premature birth and low birthweight. Waiting at least 18 months between pregnancies allows your body time to fully recover from your last pregnancy before it’s ready for your next pregnancy.

Take action today

You can help us lead the fight for the health of all moms and babies. Join March of Dimes’ advocacy network and take action now to support legislation that can help protect moms and babies.

Visit marchofdimes.org and learn more about the steps you can take to be as healthy as possible before and during pregnancy.

Healthy babies across the life course: Past reflections and future progress during National Minority Health Month

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

By Kweli Rashied-Henry, March of Dimes Director of Health Equity

Frederick Douglass once said “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” As a country, we have made tremendous strides in the health of all populations since this famed abolitionist spoke these words in the mid-19th century. Overall life expectancy has increased and infant death before the age of one has declined. However, health is still experienced disproportionately in the United States.

Nearly twenty years ago, April was established as National Minority Health Month to encourage health and health equity partners and stakeholders to work together on initiatives to reduce disparities, advance equity, and strengthen the health and well-being of all Americans. In the U.S., racial and ethnic disparities (or inequities) in preterm birth are worsening. Black women are about 50 percent more likely to give birth prematurely compared to other women and their babies are more than twice as likely to die before their first birthday compared to babies born to white women. This stark reality signals the need for health equity, which means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. It also signals the need for healthy moms before, during and after pregnancy.

Being healthy across the course of one’s life is essential for having a healthy baby in the future. Most of us recognize the importance of prenatal care during pregnancy. Experts also advise screenings for medical and social risk factors, providing health education, and delivering effective treatment or prevention plans as a set of practices that could improve health prior to conception. Women and men of reproductive age who improve their preconception health can increase their likelihood of having a healthy baby if and when they desire. In short, healthy moms and dads can lead to stronger babies. Yet disparities can be stubborn and may require more than simply changing behavior.

According to the Office of Minority Health, your zip code can be a predictor of your health. In other words, your place of birth, where you work and play, your income and education, and a host of other factors – in addition to the choices you make each day about what to eat, when to work out and whether or not to see a doctor can impact your health. These factors are often referred to as the “social determinants of health,” and they contribute to health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities in America. “Addressing the social determinants is key to ensuring that every baby is born healthy regardless of wealth, race or geography.”

According to the Pew Research Center, rapid growth among minority populations is projected by 2050.  If this trend holds, many of tomorrow’s parents will come from communities that share a disproportionate burden of preterm birth and infant death. Although advances in medicine and technology were likely responsible for much of the improvements in these health outcomes in the U.S. over the years, it is also likely that the collective actions of everyday people has helped us realize that better health is not just for ourselves but for future generations. Looking back on this progress can surely help us look forward to what it will take for our babies to continue to grow and thrive.  National Minority Health Month is a special occasion for us to acknowledge the struggles that continue to evade us and what’s needed to support future generations.

It’s September: let’s sound a rallying cry for preventing infant loss

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

Today’s guest post on the importance of recognizing Infant Mortality Awareness month is from Kweli Rashied-Henry, Director of Health Equity for the March of Dimes.

It gets me every time – the sound of a baby crying always tugs at my heartstrings. I know it is a common expectation for moms and dads to anticipate the sound of their infant calling out to them. A baby’s cry can signal many things, a need for food, touch, comfort or for someone to take the pain away. For too many parents, that sound goes unfulfilled or is cut short because their infant has passed away. September is the month that reminds us of the importance of infant mortality and the need for more support, resources, education and awareness.

In the US, babies still die before their first birthday at shockingly high rates. Although we have made great strides over the past two decades, many babies do not get a chance to fully begin their lives, let alone thrive. Infant mortality is one factor typically used in healthcare and public health to assess how well we are doing as a society. Approximately 4 million babies are born each year in the US. The 2015 infant mortality rate was 5.9 per 1,000 live births, which is one of the highest among highly developed countries. That means that over 23,000 infants died in the United States in 2015. Premature birth and birth defects are two of the major contributors to the infant mortality rate.

Infant health advocates have long promoted several strategies to decrease preterm birth rates that can ultimately reduce infant death. Care innovation, research, health education, and policy advocacy are strategies that March of Dimes and other national leaders have used to reduce preterm birth rates. However, one of the most alarming trends that has interfered with efforts to reduce premature birth and infant mortality is the persistent racial and ethnic disparities that exist in the US.

For instance in 2015, Black women had a 48% higher chance of delivering preterm than their counterparts, and were more than twice as likely to experience infant loss. Reasons behind these differences are varied and complex. Understanding the relationship between people and the impact that social factors can have on their health is important to achieve health equity — health for everyone, regardless of their income, education or racial/ethnic background. According to the March of Dimes, evidence suggests that social determinants of health, such as socioeconomic status (SES) at both individual and area/community levels (e.g., income/poverty, job status, education), as well as psychosocial factors (e.g. chronic stress, lack of social support) are associated with increased risk of adverse birth outcomes.

Our collective voices are critical to sounding the rallying cry that our babies so desperately need. Let it also include the importance of social supports that all moms and dads rely on to ensure that they are healthy in preparation for having healthy infants. September is the month to remember those babies who have passed away and to act by partnering with others to lend support for infant mortality prevention efforts. Remember a cry is a signal from a baby in need. Let our rallying cry signal the need for all babies to be born healthy, to grow and thrive.

 

 

 

Health disparities in premature birth

Friday, April 14th, 2017

In the United States, rates of preterm birth, low birthweight, and infant mortality are higher for black, non-Hispanic infants than for white, non-Hispanic infants. These differences, or disparities, Baby w pacifierbetween races and/or ethnicities have a great impact on the health and well-being of families.

What we know

  • Premature birth is when a baby is born too soon, before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
  • While the overall preterm birth rate in 2013 was 11.4%, the rate was higher among non-Hispanic black infants (16.3%) compared to non-Hispanic white infants (10.2%). This means that the preterm birth rate for black infants was 60% higher than the rate for non-Hispanic white infants.
  • 11.3% of Hispanic infants were born prematurely. Hispanic women account for about 1 out of every 4 premature births in the US (23.2%). The preterm birth rate among Hispanic women is falling more slowly than the rate in the non-Hispanic white population and the non-Hispanic black population.
  • The number of black infants born at a low birthweight (a baby is born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces) was almost twice that of white infants and Hispanic infants.
  • The death of a baby before his or her first birthday is called infant mortality. The rates of infant mortality are higher for babies born before 37 weeks and at a low birthweight.
  • A recent study published by the CDC, showed that from 2005 to 2014, infant mortality rates declined for all races, except American Indian or Alaska Natives. But babies born to non-Hispanic black women continue to have an infant mortality rate more than double that of non-Hispanic white women.

We don’t know why race plays a role in premature birth.

Even when researchers compare women of different races and ethnicities and remove any known risk factors in their analysis (such as smoking, obesity, and high blood pressure), the disparities in the rate of premature births still exist.

Researchers at the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center Ohio Collaborative are trying to better understand health disparities. Dr. Irina Buhimschi has found that there is a population of Somali women in the US with a low rate of premature birth—as low as or lower than white women. Dr. Buhumschi and her team are trying to determine what makes this population different. “We believe a variety of genetic, environmental and social factors are involved in preterm birth. From stress and resilience, to diet and lifestyle, to vaginal and gut bacteria, we will comprehensively study why Somali-American women have lower rates of preterm birth.” Dr. Buhimschi then hopes to develop a plan that can help all populations reduce their chances of premature birth.

You can read more about Dr. Buhimschi’s research here.

The March of Dimes supports research, community programs, and advocacy policies that try to reduce health disparities and make sure that all babies have a healthy start in life.

U.S. study shows fewer babies are dying in their first year of life

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

The death of a baby before his or her first birthday is called infant mortality. A new report released by the CDC shows that the infant mortality rate in the U.S. dropped 15% from 2005 to 2014. In kangaroo-care-242005 the rate was 6.86 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. In 2014, the rate dropped to 5.82 deaths per 1,000 live births.

While the study did not look at the underlying causes of the decline, it did report valuable information:

  • Infant mortality rates declined in 33 states and the District of Columbia. The other 17 states saw no significant changes.
  • Declines were seen in some of the leading causes of infant death including birth defects (11% decline), preterm birth and low birthweight (8% decline), and maternal complications (7% decline).
  • The rate of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) declined by 29%.
  • Infant mortality rates declined for all races, except American Indian or Alaska Natives.
  • Infants born to non-Hispanic black women continue to have an infant mortality rate more than double that of non-Hispanic white women.

“On the surface, this seems like good news. But it is far from time to celebrate,” said Dr. Paul Jarris, chief medical officer for the March of Dimes. “What is concerning, though, is that the inequities between non-Hispanic blacks and American Indians and the Caucasian population have persisted.” Dr. Jarris adds, “This report highlights the need to strengthen programs that serve low income and at-risk communities, especially those with the highest infant mortality rates.”

The infant mortality rate is one of the indicators that is often used to measure the health and well-being of a nation, because factors affecting the health of entire populations can also impact the mortality rate of infants.

What can you do?

Having a healthy pregnancy may increase the chance of having a healthy baby. Here are some things you can do before and during pregnancy:

Have questions? Text or email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Three quarters of a century young (yes – we’re 79 years old!)

Monday, December 19th, 2016

fdr-warm-springs-kidsIt’s that time of year, when magazines are full of stories and photos of the year in review, and people look back to take stock of their accomplishments. This post is taking it a step further…here is a celebration of our past 79 years!

Why the dimes? (we get this question a lot)

The March of Dimes was started in 1938 when Franklin Roosevelt’s personal struggle with polio led him to create the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. It was a time when polio was on the rise nationwide. The name for the fundraiser “March of Dimes” was coined by comedian and radio personality Eddie Cantor as a pun on a popular movie newsreel of the era, The March of Time. Cantor asked his radio audience to send dimes to the White House to help polio patients and support research. After billions of dimes were received, the organization became known as the March of Dimes. The end result of this effort was the development of the polio vaccines, which have almost completely rid the world of this disabling disease.

check in boxIt is very unusual for a nonprofit organization to fulfill its mission as completely as that of the March of Dimes. So, when the March of Dimes checked off the box on the successful development of the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines, we turned our focus to that of preventing birth defects and infant mortality. With thousands of birth defects on record, we’ve had our hands full.

Our work after polio

The March of Dimes has funded research looking for the underlying genetic causes of birth defects to help us better understand what can go wrong and hopefully how to prevent them. We’ve funded research into the development of surfactant therapy to treat breathing problems in premature infants, which has saved thousands of lives since 1990. We’ve successfully championed and promoted newborn screening so that more infants with devastating conditions are identified and treated in a timely manner; and we led the campaign to add folic acid to grain foods in the United States, thereby reducing serious birth defects of the brain and spine by 27%.

We began educating the public on how to have a healthy pregnancy by producing a robust website of articles, print materials, this blog, and using social media to help women understand what they can do to have a full-term, healthy baby. We began answering individual health questions from the public in 1996 and still continue to answer thousands of questions every year.

But we didn’t stop there.

Our work with babies, birth defects and infant mortality provided a natural transition into fighting premature birth, the number 1 cause of deathPassing the time while your baby is in the NICU among babies in the U.S. Nearly 1 in 10 babies is born prematurely. Despite the advances in neonatal medicine, many babies still die, and the ones who survive often face a lifetime of disability – from mild to severe. In short, it is simply something that we knew we needed to fight.

So, in 2003 we launched our Prematurity Campaign. And in 2011, we launched the first of five prematurity research centers, each one staffed by the best and brightest scientists, and each one focused on a different aspect of prematurity. The best part of this 5-pronged approach is that the researchers all talk to one another and collaborate, encouraging synergy. Our goal is to be as successful with ending prematurity as we were with eliminating polio.

We also continued in the quest to allow folic acid to be added to corn masa flour in the U.S., and…drum roll please…we were successful this year! This is very important for the Hispanic community as corn masa flour is a staple for many Hispanic families. Fortifying corn masa flour products such as tortilla chips, tacos, and tamales, with folic acid will help prevent more devastating neural tube birth defects like Spina Bifida.

Wait…there’s more…

In the meantime, another related mission has surfaced – stopping the Zika virus. The devastating effects that Zika can have on a developing baby are well documented (microcephaly, congenital Zika syndrome, and developmental delays).

The March of Dimes led a coalition of almost 100 organizations to educate Congress about the dangers of Zika and was successful in the passage of federal funding to combat the virus. We continue to raise awareness with our #ZAPzika campaign to let women know how to protect themselves. By working with the CDC, we‘re educating the public about this virus so that pregnant women can protect themselves and their babies from Zika.

Yes. We’ve been very busy. The past 78 years have gone by quite fast.

Is there anything else in our future? Glad you asked!

A new March of Dimes President.

With the start of 2017, we will be under the leadership of President, Stacey D. Stewart, MBA, a woman of experience, intelligence, creativity and integrity. We’re so excited to welcome her.

The mission of the March of Dimes is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

We are confident that under the leadership of Ms. Stewart, we will once again check off the box on a mission accomplished.

 

 

PREEMIE Act signed into law

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

On Nov. 27th, President Barack Obama signed into law S. 252, the PREEMIE Reauthorization Act, a bill to reauthorize federal research, education and intervention activities related to preterm birth and infant mortality.

“The PREEMIE Act represents the federal government’s commitment to reducing the devastating toll of preterm birth,” stated Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, President of the March of Dimes.  “By signing this bill into law, President Obama has enabled vital research and education on the prevention of prematurity to continue.  The March of Dimes is deeply grateful to him, as well as the authors of the PREEMIE Act – Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ) – for their tireless efforts to ensure that no baby is born too soon.

“Today, one in every nine U.S. infants is born preterm.  Due to concerted efforts by the March of Dimes and our partners, this number has gone down for the past six consecutive years, but it is still too high.  Prematurity can lead to a host of adverse health consequences for these babies and place a terrible strain on their families.  In addition, preterm birth carries a significant cost to businesses and our economy.  The average premature birth costs 12 times as much as a healthy birth.  The PREEMIE Reauthorization Act will sustain the vital federal investment in promoting healthy pregnancies, healthy infants, and healthy families.”

Preterm delivery can happen to any pregnant woman; in many cases, the cause of preterm birth is unknown. Preterm birth is the leading cause of neonatal death, and those babies who survive are more likely to suffer from intellectual and physical disabilities. In addition to its human, emotional, and financial impact on families, preterm birth places a tremendous economic burden on the nation.  A 2006 report by the Institute of Medicine found the cost associated with preterm birth in the United States was $26.2 billion annually, or $51,600 per infant born preterm. Employers, private insurers and individuals bear approximately half of the costs of health care for these infants, and another 40 percent is paid by Medicaid.

S. 252 was endorsed and strongly supported by a wide range of organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, and the National Association of City and County Health Officers, and more.

The original PREEMIE Act (P.L. 109-450) brought the first-ever national focus to prematurity prevention.  The Surgeon General’s Conference on the Prevention of Preterm Birth required by the Act generated a public-private agenda to spur innovative research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and support evidence-based interventions to prevent preterm birth. The PREEMIE Reauthorization Act reauthorizes critical federal research, education and intervention activities related to preterm birth and infant mortality.

Thanks to all our volunteers!

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

youth-volunteers1This week, April 21-27, is National Volunteer Week and we want to give an enormous shout out to all our wonderful volunteers. These are the extraordinary folks who make this organization great.

More than 3 million volunteers enable the March of Dimes to achieve its goals. Every year, these leaders march more than 5 million miles, speak to tens of thousands of people about the mission and help raise millions of dollars. From the very earliest days, volunteers have been full partners in the March of Dimes, working to raise funds, heighten awareness and implement critical programs to help support our mission.

This diverse group of volunteers, led by a local volunteer leadership of approximately 3,000 chapter and division board members, brings knowledge, business experience and passion to ensure the March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health.  We celebrate their leadership and that of our corporate partners and national service partners! We also have bright and energetic youth councils working in high schools and colleges. We have had celebrity volunteers from the early years (Eddie Cantor, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley…) to today’s hot tickets like Pink, Dee Snider, and Thalia!

With the support of these exceptional, high-impact volunteers, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

Thank you all so, SO much for what you do during this special week and all throughout the year!

Tackling infant mortality through innovative health education

Friday, September 14th, 2012

PrintToday’s post is written by Sarah Ingersoll, Text4baby Campaign Director, National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition

September marks National Infant Mortality Awareness Month and while millions of families prepare their children for a new school year, this is also a time to reflect on the thousands of families who have lost a child far too soon. The infant mortality rate (6 in 1,000 live births) in the U.S. is one of the highest among developed nations and rates are much higher within the African-American community, regardless of income, educational level, or location. More than twice as many African-American babies die compared to their White counterparts during the first year of life, statistics that reflect a true health crisis in our country.

We know that providing mothers with the best possible information and access to care can help. This is where text4baby comes in. Text4baby is the nation’s first free text messaging service for pregnant women and mothers of infants under age one. Moms receive three text messages every week, timed to their due date or baby’s birth date, throughout pregnancy and up to baby’s first birthday. Moms get information on labor signs and symptoms, developmental milestones, breastfeeding, car seat and sleep safety, and many other topics. To sign up, textBABYto511411.

In honoring Infant Mortality Awareness Month and striving to empower more moms with text4baby, those who sign up between September 1 and September 30 will be entered to win a year’s supply of baby products courtesy of the program’s Founding Sponsor, Johnson & Johnson. Sign up now and be sure to share with your friends and loved ones!

Learn more at http://text4baby.org/. Follow up on Facebook and twitter (@mytext4baby)!

Healthy Babies Challenge

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Forty-eight states as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have pledged their support to give more babies a healthy start in life by reducing premature birth and infant mortality, the March of Dimes and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) announced today. One goal of the Healthy Babies Challenge is decreasing the country’s prematurity rates by 8 percent by the year 2014.

Nearly half a million babies, just less than 12 percent, are born too soon each year.  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, mental retardation and others. Worldwide, 15 million babies are born preterm, and more than one million die each year.

Meeting the 2014 goal would lower the nation’s preterm birth to about 11 percent, and save about $2 billion in health care and socio-economic costs.

In addition to the physical and emotional challenges associated with prematurity, a 2005 Institute of Medicine report found that preterm birth and associated complications had cost the United States at least $26.2 billion that year. Reducing prematurity offers Healthy Babies Challenge participants the opportunity to save lives and reduce healthcare costs in their states.

From coast to coast, and without regard to politics, health officials in these 48 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico have signed on to help more babies get a healthy start in life.  Participating state health departments are partnering with the March of Dimes to address infant health needs, including helping more women quit smoking during pregnancy, promoting breastfeeding, increasing access to prenatal care, and conducting the “Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait” initiative with hospitals to educate the public about the health benefits carrying a baby full term.

In addition to ASTHO and the March of Dimes, many other organizations and agencies have funded and worked on programs with the common goal of improving birth outcomes. The Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs has long been a leader in the field; the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Healthy Start has been working to eliminate health disparities in child and maternal health for two decades; the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and other agencies recently launched the Strong Start program to “reduce the risk of significant complications and long-term health problems for both expectant mothers and newborns;” and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed maternal and child health as priorities in both Healthy People 2010 and Healthy People 2020.

For more information on the Healthy Babies Challenge, read the full press release.