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U.S. Senate Passes Legislation to Help Prevent Premature Birth

Washington, District of Columbia — Thursday, November 15, 2012

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The U.S. Senate tonight passed the PREEMIE Reauthorization Act (S.1440). The bipartisan legislation reauthorizes federal research, education and intervention activities related to preterm birth and infant mortality.

“The PREEMIE Reauthorization Act will save infants’ lives, “said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, President of the March of Dimes. “Tonight the Senate took a vital step toward ensuring a healthy start for our nation’s infants. Renewal of the 2006 PREEMIE Act is a vital component of the March of Dimes’ comprehensive efforts to reduce the number of infant deaths and childhood disabilities caused by premature birth.

“Our efforts are bearing fruit,” Dr. Howse added. “Preterm birth rates have now dropped for five consecutive years after rising steadily for three decades. The PREEMIE Reauthorization Act will continue to fuel our progress by supporting federal research and promoting known interventions and community initiatives.

“We especially thank the bill sponsors Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Mike Enzi (R-WY) for their leadership on this lifesaving legislation,” she said. “We look forward to the U.S. House of Representatives taking up this measure as soon as possible.”

The original PREEMIE Act (P.L. 109-450) brought the first-ever national focus to prematurity prevention. The Surgeon General’s Conference on the Prevention of Preterm Birth required by the Act generated a public-private agenda to spur innovative research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and support evidence-based interventions to prevent preterm birth. The PREEMIE Reauthorization Act reauthorizes critical federal research, education and intervention activities related to preterm birth and infant mortality.

On November 13, the March of Dimes released its 2012 Premature Birth Report Card. Four states – Vermont, Oregon, New Hampshire, and Maine – earned an “A” as their preterm birth rates met the March of Dimes 9.6 percent goal. Although the U.S. preterm birth rate improved, it again earned a “C” on the Report Card.

Every day, one in eight infants is born premature in the United States. Preterm delivery can happen to any pregnant woman; in the majority of cases, the cause of preterm birth is unknown. Preterm birth is the leading cause of neonatal death, and those babies who survive are more likely to suffer from intellectual and physical disabilities. In addition to its human, emotional, and financial impact on families, preterm birth places a tremendous economic burden on the nation. A 2006 report by the Institute of Medicine found the cost associated with preterm birth in the United States was $26.2 billion annually, or $51,600 per infant born preterm. Employers, private insurers and individuals bear approximately half of the costs of health care for these infants, and another 40 percent is paid by Medicaid.

About March of Dimes
The March of Dimes is a national voluntary health agency whose volunteers and staff work to improve the health of infants and children by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. Founded in 1938, the March of Dimes funds programs of research, community services, education and advocacy.

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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