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    SOUTH CAROLINA ACCEPTS PRETERM BIRTH PREVENTION CHALLENGE

    Jacki Apel, Director of Communications, March of Dimes, 803-640-2350, JApel@marchofdimes.com

    Columbia, South Carolina, November 19, 2012 —

    Health officials in South Carolina announced their support to give more babies a healthy start in life by accepting a challenge to lower the South Carolina’s preterm birth rate 8 percent by 2014.

    The announcement took place in the State House Lobby at 2:00 p.m. on Monday, November 19. Remarks will be made by Governor Nikki Haley, DHHS Director Tony Keck, DHEC Director Catherine Templeton and March of Dimes volunteer Dr. Amy Picklesimer.

    The challenge was issued by Association of State and Territorial Health Officers president and Texas commissioner of Health Services David Lakey, MD, and endorsed by the March of Dimes. The challenge would lower South Carolina preterm birth rate to 13.5 percent and prevent 700 preterm births. At present, 14.1 percent of babies in South Carolina are born preterm. “We proudly accept the challenge to lower our preterm birth rate and we know that South Carolina’s babies will benefit from our efforts,” said Governor Nikki Haley.

    “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 Amy Picklesimer MD, obstetrician and March of Dimes volunteer. “We applaud Governor Haley, the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and the South Carolina Hospital Association 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.

    One way South Carolina health officials are tackling the issue is by conducting an educational campaign with the March of Dimes to let pregnant women and their health care providers know that “Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait.”  Through advertising and patient education, women will be advised that if their pregnancy is healthy, it’s best to wait for labor to begin on its own rather than scheduling an induction or cesarean. 

    In addition, the Birth Outcomes Initiative, a collaboration between many statewide maternal and child health organizations, continues to make strides in improving the health of moms and babies in South Carolina.  They have increased patient and provider access of 17p, a hormone given to pregnant women who have had a previous preterm birth to reduce rates of preterm deliveries.  They have decreased non-medically indicated inductions prior to 39 weeks by 51 percent through an unprecedented collaboration with every hospital throughout the state.  They have also increased screening pregnant women for risk factors to refer them to appropriate services and ultimately prevent early deliveries. To-date this year, 4,600 expectant mothers in the state have already been screened. In partnership with the March of Dimes, the Birth Outcome Initiative continues to fund and support programs like CenteringPregnancy, a group prenatal care program for expecting moms. These community programs are reaching thousands of pregnant women with information and support to help them make good choices and deliver healthy babies.

    The South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services provides health care benefits to more than 1.1 million South Carolinians and financially supports almost half of all births in the state. Its mission is to purchase the most health for our citizens in need at the least possible cost to the taxpayer.

    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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