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History

  • The March of Dimes was established by FDR to fight polio.
  • The mission focus was shifted to premature birth and birth defects.
  • Research breakthroughs have helped save thousands of babies.
     
    Franklin D. Roosevelt and Basil O'Connor count dimes at White House desk; 1944 Iron lung ward, Haynes Memorial Hospital; Boston, MA; 1955 Polio Pioneers, Salk polio vaccine field trial; 1954 Elvis Presley receives his polio inoculation to promote vaccination; 1956 Virginia Apgar, MD, creator of the Apgar Score; 1968 Beverly Sills, National Mothers March Chair; 1984 Isolette in newborn intensive care unit (NICU); 1990 Kelsey Adams, March of Dimes national ambassador, born healthy thanks to folic acid; 1999 March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign launch; January 30, 2003 March for Babies; 2009
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    A president's cause changed babies' lives forever

    President Franklin Roosevelt's personal struggle with polio led him to create the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis at a time when polio was on the rise. Better known as the March of Dimes, the foundation established a polio patient aid program and funded research for vaccines developed by Jonas Salk, MD and Albert Sabin, MD. These vaccines effectively ended epidemic polio in the United States.

    Preventing birth defects

    Its original mission accomplished, the foundation turned its focus to preventing birth defects and infant mortality. The March of Dimes has led the way to discover the genetic causes of birth defects, to promote newborn screening, and to educate medical professionals and the public about best practices for healthy pregnancy. We have supported research for surfactant therapy to treat respiratory distress and helped initiate the system of regional neonatal intensive care for premature and sick babies. Our recent Folic Acid Campaign achieved a dramatic reduction in the incidence of neural tube defects, birth defects of the brain and spine.

    Fighting premature birth

    Since 2003, our fight to save babies has been strongly characterized by our Prematurity Campaign. The rising incidence of premature birth has demanded action, and the March of Dimes has responded by initiating an intensive, multi-year campaign to raise awareness and find the causes of prematurity.

    Most common questions

    Who founded the March of Dimes?

    Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States.

    What was the original name of the March of Dimes?

    The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis.

    When did the March of Dimes change its mission to birth defects prevention?

    1958

    What is the March of Dimes mission today?

    To improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, infant mortality, and premature birth.

    Why did the March of Dimes change its mission to birth defects prevention?

    To "lead, direct, and unify" the fight against polio, a paralyzing viral disease.

    What March of Dimes publication led to regionalized neonatal intensive care?

    Toward Improving the Outcome of Pregnancy, published in 1976.

    What is the Apgar score?

    The Apgar score, created by Virginia Apgar, MD, is a simple test of five vital life-signs administered immediately after delivery.

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