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    March of Dimes and Pennsylvania Health Department Unite to Reduce Preterm Birth

    Details Announced at Media Event on November 27

    Hershey, PA, November 27, 2012 —

    The Pennsylvania Department of Health is partnering with the Pennsylvania Chapter March of Dimes to lower the number of babies born too soon. 

    Pennsylvania state health officials have pledged their support to give more babies a healthy start in life by accepting a challenge to reduce by 8 percent the state’s rate of preterm births by 2014.  If successful, Pennsylvania’s preterm birth rate will see a reduction from 11 percent to 10.6 percent and will prevent 1,350 preterm births. 

    The goal is part of a national initiative developed by David Lakey, MD and President of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers (ASTHO) and endorsed by the March of Dimes.  Pennsylvania is one of forty-eight states, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, that have pledged support to give more babies a healthy start in life by reducing premature birth and infant mortality. 

    “We are pleased to join our partners to work towards lowering preterm birth rates and in combating the leading cause of newborn deaths,” said Pennsylvania Department of Health Acting Secretary Michael Wolf.  “We proudly accept the challenge and we know that Pennsylvania babies will benefit from our efforts.”

    One way Pennsylvania state health officials and the March of Dimes are working to address the issue is by providing obstetric practitioner training in the CenteringPregnancy® model of group prenatal care.  Pregnant women enrolled in CenteringPregnancy® group prenatal care meet monthly with their obstetrician or nurse midwife for 90 minute, in-depth, group appointments shared by ten to twelve pregnant women with the same estimated date of delivery.  The collaboration between the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the March of Dimes supports the implementation of CenteringPregnancy® at 11 obstetric sites across the commonwealth. 

    As part of November’s Prematurity Awareness Month activities, representatives from the Department of Health, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, the March of Dimes, and obstetric providers from participating health systems, gathered at the Lois High Berstler Community Health Library on the campus of Penn State Hershey Medical Center.  Reporters were invited to interview obstetric providers and new moms who received their prenatal care through the CenteringPregnancy® model of group prenatal care.  

    Obstetric providers at Penn State Hershey Medical Center have been leaders in the growth of the CenteringPregnancy® model of care in Pennsylvania and their Department  of Obstetrics and Gynecology serves as the host site for training other providers including: St. Joseph Family and Womens Care in Reading, Lancaster General Hospital, SouthEast Lancaster Health Center, Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, Albert Einstein Health Network both Philadelphia and Montgomery sites, and Drexel University’s 11th Street Family Health Center. 

    “We don't know everything about premature birth, but we know there are steps that can make a difference, such as improving access to health care, helping women quit smoking and ending early elective deliveries,” said James Dennis, state director for the Pennsylvania Chapter March of Dimes.  “We applaud Acting Secretary Wolf for taking the initiative to implement proven strategies to address this problem.”

    Preterm birth -- before 37 weeks of pregnancy -- is a serious health problem that costs the United States more than $26 billion annually, according to a 2006 Institute of Medicine report.  It is the leading cause of newborn death, and one million babies worldwide die each year due to preterm birth.  Babies who survive an early birth often face lifelong health challenges, such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities and others.

    March of Dimes has been funding obstetrical provider training in the CenteringPregnancy® model of group prenatal care since 2004.  “Having the Pennsylvania Department of Health join us in this effort has allowed us to expand provider training and develop a Network of CenteringPregnancy® obstetric colleagues from across the state who meet regularly to support one another in this non-traditional model of care.” said Jay S. Greenspan, MD, MBA, March of Dimes Program Services Board Chair and Pediatrician-in-Chief for Nemours/A.I. DuPont and Chair of Pediatrics at Thomas Jefferson University.

    According to the newly released 2012 March of Dimes Preterm Birth Report Card, Pennsylvania earned the grade of “B” for lowering its preterm birth rate to 11 percent.  The March of Dimes attributed the improved rates to an expansion of successful programs and interventions, including the challenge to reduce preterm birth rates across the states.  Since 2006, Pennsylvania’s preterm birth rate has dropped from 11.8 percent to 11 percent.

    “These improvements mean not just healthier babies, but also a potential savings in health care and economic costs to society.” said Dr. Greenspan.

    Through this unique model of care, pregnant women are empowered to choose health-promoting behaviors. Health outcomes for pregnancies, specifically increased birth weight, extended gestational age for women who deliver preterm, and the satisfaction expressed by both the women and their providers, support the effectiveness of this model for the delivery of prenatal care.

    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.  Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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