Prematurity Leading Cause of Newborn Death

March of Dimes Volunteers Lobby Pennsylvania Legislature

to Raise Awareness of Growing Problem

Nov 18, 2003, 00:00 ET from March of Dimes

    HARRISBURG, Pa., Nov. 18 /PRNewswire/ -- Citing the dramatic rise in
 premature infant births, more than seventy youth and adult March of Dimes
 volunteers from around the state are in Harrisburg today to increase public
 awareness and meet with Governor Ed Rendell and key legislators to encourage
 funding of programs that help to prevent prematurity.  Today, 1 in 8 babies is
 born premature.
     Prematurity (less than 37 weeks of gestation) is the leading cause of
 newborn death in the first month of life and babies who survive often face
 problems such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation, blindness and
 developmental disabilities.  "The annual rate of babies born prematurely has
 risen 27 percent since 1981, and this rate is unacceptably high," says Dr.
 Jennifer L. Howse, March of Dimes president.
     In the last ten years, preterm birth in Pennsylvania has increased nearly
 six percent to 11 percent of all births.  Preterm birth is highest for
 African-American women (17.3%).  In 2001, the average hospital charge for a
 premature baby was $75,000 with an average stay of 24.7 days compared to
 $1,300 for an uncomplicated newborn stay of 1.9 days.  The total national
 hospital bill for babies with a diagnosis of prematurity/lowbirth weight was
 approximately $13.6 billion in 2001, and there can be significant additional
 medical costs over the child's life.
     "Prematurity is an issue that impacts everyone," says Dr. Jay Greenspan,
 Director, Division of Neonatology, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and
 A.I. duPont Hospital for Children, Vice Chairman and Professor of Pediatrics
 Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.  "People don't realize how common
 prematurity is and how dangerous it can be.  There is nothing harder than to
 see an infant be so sick and so innocent."  Earlier this year, Dr. Greenspan
 signed on to chair statewide public awareness and professional education
 initiatives that are focused on preventing premature birth by increasing
 knowledge about the know risk factors and signs of preterm labor.  An advocate
 for the March of Dimes, Dr. Greenspan also works to encourage additional
 support to fund research.
     Partnering with the March of Dimes in Prematurity Awareness Day effort are
 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American College of Obstetricians
 and Gynecologists (ACOG) and Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and
 Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) and corporate sponsors CIGNA, FedEx and the Johnson &
 Johnson Pediatric Institute.
     The March of Dimes is funding $75 million, five-year national campaign to
 increase public awareness and decrease the rate of premature birth.  Founded
 in 1938, the March of Dimes funds programs of research, community services,
 education and advocacy to save babies.  For more information, visit or, in Spanish, or call 1-888-MODIMES.
 Click on the baby band during November and our sponsors will donate $1 for
 research up to a total of $150,000.

SOURCE March of Dimes