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Experts to Review Quality Improvement Programs to Prevent Preterm Birth

March of Dimes Supports Screening, Education and Intervention Tools

White Plains, New York, Friday, September 18, 2009

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Journalists are invited to attend a gathering of the nation’s leading maternal-child and quality assurance health care experts who will review and develop programs that may help lower the nation’s costly preterm birth rate.

The symposium, which will be held Oct. 8 and 9 in Arlington, Virginia, is a collaborative project of the March of Dimes, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Nurse-Midwives, and the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses. Attendees will review existing programs developed by state officials, health systems, health insurers, hospitals and clinicians, that successfully lower cesarean section and induction rates and improve care and services for pregnant women and babies. Some of the highlighted programs will be:

  • Intermountain Health Program, Salt Lake City, Utah, which reduced its elective c-sections to less than 5 percent from more than 30 percent.
  • Hospital Corporation of America, Nashville, Tenn., which delivers about 5 percent of all U.S. births, implemented an integrated quality improvement program in the 21 states it serves, and reduced the primary c-section rate, lowered maternal and fetal injuries and reduced the cost of obstetric malpractice claims 500 percent.
  • Geisinger Health System, Danville, Pa., developed an electronic health record to ensure pregnant women are screened for chronic conditions and risk factors that can be treated proactively, lowering the risk of preterm birth and other complications.

Preterm birth is a serious and costly health problem, and is the leading cause of death in the first month of life in this country. More than 540,000 babies – one out of every eight – are born too soon each year in the United States, and the rate has increased more than 20 percent in nearly 20 years. Babies who survive an early birth face serious risks of lifelong health problems, including learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, blindness, hearing loss, and other chronic conditions including asthma. Even infants born just a few weeks too soon have a greater risk of respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), feeding difficulties, temperature instability (hypothermia), jaundice and delayed brain development.

"There are tools out there that can successfully prevent preterm birth – whether by ensuring that a c-section is medically necessary, or by screening pregnant women for diabetes, or by offering them access to smoking cessation programs,” said Alan R. Fleischman, MD, medical director for the March of Dimes. “At this meeting, OB-GYNs, pediatricians, nurses, hospital administrators, health insurers and policy makers will share their best practices and create a plan that will outline education and intervention opportunities and begin to reverse the serious increase in our nation’s preterm birth rate."

Among the nationally-known experts who will present at the meeting are:

  • Carolyn M. Clancy, MD, director, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

  • Mark R. Chassin, MD, FACP, MPP, MPH, president, The Joint Commission

  • Tina D. Groat, MD, MBA, UnitedHealthcare National Medical Director, Women's Health Line of Service

  • Hal C. Lawrence, III, MD, FACOG, vice president, Practice Activities, ACOG

  • Melissa Avery, PhD, CNM, FACNM, FAAN, President, American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) 

  • José F. Cordero, MD, MPH, dean, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Puerto Rico and founding director of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

  • Helen Darling, president, National Business Group on Health

  • Kim Armour, NP-BC, APN, MSN, RDMS, 2009 President of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses

About March of Dimes
The March of Dimes is the leading 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 health information, visit our websites marchofdimes.org and nacersano.org. To participate in our annual signature fundraising event, visit marchforbabies.org. If you have been affected by prematurity or birth defects, visit our shareyourstory.org community to find comfort and support. For detailed national, state and local perinatal statistics, visit persistats.org. You can also find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

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