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Focus on African-American Babies Born Too Soon

New Community Program Seeks to Reduce Preterm Birth in Newark

Newark, New Jersey — Thursday, February 16, 2012

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Nearly one in five African-American babies in Newark is born too soon, and a new community-based program announced today aims to help more of these babies be born healthy and full-term.

Today, the March of Dimes launched Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait®, a program to reduce preterm births in Newark. Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait is a partnership of the March of Dimes, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, the City of Newark Department of Child and Family Well Being, Newark Beth Israel, UMDNJ – The University Hospital and Newark Community Health Centers, conducted in collaboration with Johnson & Johnson. The primary goal of this partnership in Newark is to reduce the rate of singleton (one baby) preterm birth with particular concern for reducing preterm birth within the African-American community. The March of Dimes has been working with prenatal care providers and community-based organizations to select interventions and develop materials specifically for African-American women.

African-American women are more than one and a half times as likely to have a preterm baby compared to white women; and disparities persist even when age, education and other demographics are considered. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, in 2009, the preterm birth rate in Newark for African-American women was 18.6 percent, while the overall rate for the city was 16.5 percent — both substantially higher than the statewide preterm birth rate of 12 percent. In Newark the preterm birth rate is more than 66 percent higher among African-Americans babies when compared to non-Hispanic whites.

“Preventing preterm birth saves babies’ lives and opens up a healthy future for them and their families,” said LaVerne Council, chair of the March of Dimes Board of Trustees. “Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait will offer more New Jersey moms, especially African-American moms who are at greater risk, the best information and services geared especially for them.”

Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait provides education for perinatal providers, pregnant women, and the greater Newark community on the problem of preterm birth, its risk factors and strategies for reducing risk. Additionally, it provides a supportive structure for implementing bundled evidence-based clinical and public health interventions to reduce preterm birth. HBWW-Newark works to increase early entry into prenatal care by building strong collaborations among the health department, healthcare providers and community organizations as only 55% of African-American women receive prenatal care within the first trimester.

“Preparing for a new baby should be a time of great excitement,” said Mary O’Dowd, New Jersey Health and Senior Services Commissioner. “Premature birth is the number one obstetrical problem in the U.S. and African-American women in particular, across all socioeconomic groups, are at a much greater risk of delivering their babies too soon. Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait aims to help prevent preterm births with a model that combines clinical, educational and community efforts to improve overall systems of care.”

“I am proud to be working with the March of Dimes to implement Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait in Newark,” said Newark City Councilwoman Mildred Crump. “Culturally competent prenatal care and education messages are vital to improving birth outcomes in our city.”

“Johnson & Johnson is committed to improving the health of mothers and babies worldwide. Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait has proven that community-based programs can reduce pre-term birth rates. We are excited to be a partner in this project which focuses on a particularly vulnerable group of mothers and babies right here in New Jersey,” said Joy Marini, Director, Corporate Contributions, Johnson & Johnson.

The Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait program is an important component of the March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign, a nationwide effort to address the growing problem of premature birth, the leading cause of newborn death and a major cause of serious health problems. Prematurity costs U.S. society 26 billion dollars every year. The March of Dimes also funds research to find the causes of premature birth.

“I thank the March of Dimes for marshaling their considerable reputation and resources to address the critical issue of preterm birth in African-American women,” said New Jersey State Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno. “Like other March of Dimes efforts, I have no doubt this new community-based program will raise awareness and prove tremendously effective.”

In 2007 in Kentucky, Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait began as a demonstration project of the March of Dimes, the Kentucky Department of Health and the Johnson and Johnson Pediatric Institute, LLC. Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait is now a signature program of the March of Dimes with 13 sites nationwide in Kentucky, Texas, and New Jersey.

About Johnson & Johnson
Caring for the world, one person at a time…inspires and unites the people of Johnson & Johnson. We embrace research and science - bringing innovative ideas, products and services to advance the health and well-being of people. Our 118,000 employees at more than 250 Johnson & Johnson operating companies work with partners in health care to touch the lives of over a billion people every day, throughout the world.

About Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait Program
The Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait® community program uses evidence-based public health and clinical interventions to reduce preterm birth. The March of Dimes established Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait in Newark to reduce disparities in preterm birth among the African-American community. The program increases early entry into prenatal care and access to programs that are proven to reduce risk of prematurity. It works by building strong collaborations among the public health department, healthcare providers and community organizations. A signature project of March of Dimes, Health Babies are Worth the Wait began as a demonstration project in Kentucky and is also being implemented in Houston, Texas.

About March of Dimes
The March of Dimes is a national voluntary health agency whose mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. This mission is carried out through research, community services, education and advocacy to save babies’ lives. March of Dimes researchers, volunteers, educators, outreach workers and advocates work together to give all babies a fighting chance again the threats to their health: prematurity, birth defects, and low birthweight.

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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