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Parent Groups on Four Continents Call for Action to Reduce Premature Births

Elizabeth Lynch, (914) 997-4286, elynch@marchofdimes.com

Todd Dezen, (914) 997-4608, tdezen@marchofdimes.com

First-Ever World Prematurity Day Honors One Million Premature Babies Who Die Every Year

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., Nov. 14, 2011 –The March of Dimes will join organizations in Europe, Africa and Australia on Nov. 17 to hold the first-ever World Prematurity Day and call on governments worldwide to reduce death and disability caused by premature birth.

Worldwide, 13 million babies are born early every year, including more than half a million in the United States.

“Premature births are an enormous global problem that is exacting a huge toll emotionally, physically, and financially on families, medical systems and economies,” says Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, March of Dimes president. “We are calling on every country – including the United States – to reduce its rate of premature birth to 9.6 percent or less.”

Preterm birth, birth before 37 weeks gestation, is the leading cause of neonatal death, and babies who survive an early birth often face the risk of lifelong health challenges, such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities and others. One million babies worldwide die each year as a result of their early birth.

The March of Dimes, the European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants, (EFCNI), Africa-based LittleBigSouls International Foundation, and the National Premmie Foundation in Australia are the founding global alliance members of World Prematurity Day. The global alliances hope to harness the power of social media to encourage governments to give top priority to educating health professionals and women about caring for high-risk pregnancies and premature babies.

People everywhere can show their support for global prematurity prevention efforts by going to facebook.com/WorldPrematurityDay and joining the virtual campaign by changing their Facebook status to reflect a prematurity awareness message.

Other activities taking place to highlight the plight of premature babies include:

• In Ghana, Nigeria and the United Kingdom, LittleBigSouls International Charitable Foundation will mark World Prematurity Day with its Every Breath Counts campaign, a World Prematurity Day Concert in Nigeria, and its charity walks themed: “Walk to Keep a Baby Alive” to be held simultaneously in Nigeria, Ghana and the United Kingdom.

• In Brussels, EFCNI, representing parents from 20 European countries, will issue a White Paper on Maternal and Neonatal health and a ‘Call to Action for Newborn Health’ at the European Parliament on November 23. EFCNI also will launch a web campaign in 24 languages, called ‘Ene, mene, mini,’ illustrating the problem of premature birth throughout Europe.

• In Melbourne, the National Premmie Foundation will host an evening Gala on November 17. The five Australian premmie support groups also will a host various walks throughout the month, including “Prems in the Park” on November 6th, a gathering of families with premature babies.

• In the United States, the March of Dimes and its volunteers are working to renew the federal PREEMIE act, which would expand research into the causes and prevention of prematurity. Also, March of Dimes chapters and volunteers are implementing new prematurity prevention programs and educational campaigns, and holding awareness events. The Empire State Building in New York City and other buildings across the country will be lit purple in November to symbolize hope for a healthy start for more babies.

The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit 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 information, visit marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org.

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