Prevention and wellness initiatives can help to reduce both the short- and long-term impacts of communicable diseases as well as chronic conditions. For example, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that up to 70% of neural tube defects could be prevented if all women of childbearing age consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. Folic acid education, and its funding, is a program for which March of Dimes advocates.
Other examples of activities include: immunizations; preconception care and prenatal services; smoking, alcohol and substance abuse prevention and cessation initiatives; nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children (.PDF, 80K); and programs to reduce exposure to environmental and reproductive hazards associated with birth defects.
As part of the March of Dimes National Prematurity Campaign, the Foundation drafted and secured enactment of the PREEMIE Act (P.L. 109-450). The law called for a Surgeon General’s conference on preterm birth, as well as for increased federal investment in prematurity-related research and education. Work is now underway to reauthorize PREEMIE before it expires in 2011.
In 2003, the March of Dimes initiated a state-by-state effort to upgrade newborn screening programs so that all babies are screened for life-threatening, but treatable, disorders. When the effort began, state programs typically tested for an average of six disorders; today more than 96 percent of infants are born in states that require screening for 26 or more conditions.
Title V of the Social Security Act, was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935. Title V, or the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Services program, pledged support to states to provide services that would protect the "health of our nation's mothers and children."
Multiple federal agencies support prematurity-related research but among the most engaged are the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health and Maternal and Infant Health Research within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Two key resources are the National Newborn Screening and Genetics Resource Center and the March of Dimes. You can easily compare state programs on our Peristats website.