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    MEDICAL COMMUNITY AGREES, “HEALTHY BABIES ARE WORTH THE WAIT”

    New Collaboration Working to Reduce Houston’s Prematurity Rate

    Houston, Texas, January 24, 2012 —

    Three Houston hospitals are joining forces with the March of Dimes for a first-of-its-kind program to reduce the number of preterm births in Houston. Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital, St. Joseph Medical Center and The Woman’s Hospital of Texas have each made a three-year commitment to serve as locations for the March of Dimes’ “Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait” program, which officially launches on Thursday, Jan. 26.

    The Texas Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait program is a community intervention focused on decreasing preventable late preterm births through early prenatal care, community education and hospital-based quality improvement programs to eliminate unnecessary c-sections and inductions before a full 39 weeks of pregnancy.

    A leadership team that includes health care professionals, representatives from the Texas Department of State Health Services, community members and March of Dimes volunteers developed the Houston program. In addition to the three hospitals, Legacy Southwest Clinic, Clinica Hispana, Kelsey-Seybold Clinic and the Harris County Hospital District are also partnering for the Texas Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait program.

    A similar Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait program was first piloted in Kentucky as a partnership between the March of Dimes, Johnson & Johnson Pediatric Institute and the Kentucky Department for Public Health. The success of that program and the strength of the Texas Medical Center led to Houston’s selection as the first large-scale implementation location.

    “The Texas Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait initiative is groundbreaking work, and successful completion of its goals will reduce preterm births across the state. Given the diversity of the Harris County community and the three hospitals involved in the Houston HBWW project, we have the potential to positively impact thousands of births each year,” said Joanie Hare, MD, Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait advisory chair. “With all of the resources present in these communities, a widespread, collaborative approach is necessary to help present a successful decline in preterm births.”

    The launch on Thursday includes events at the following locations:

    • 8:00 am: St. Joseph Women’s Medical Center lobby (1819 Crawford)
    • 10:30 am: Safari Texas Ranch for Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital (11627 FM 1464 Rd, Richmond, TX)
    • 1:00 pm: Woman’s Hospital of Texas in the Café located in the West Tower (7600 Fannin).

    Houston Project Goals:

    • Reduction of singleton late preterm birth rate by 12% by 2014 at Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait sites;
    • Reduction in elective inductions and cesarean sections conducted prior to 39 weeks gestation;
    • Positive change in consumer knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors regarding preterm birth and elective procedures;
    • Positive change in provider knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors regarding elective procedures and the management of preterm birth; Increase patient entry into pre-natal care in the first trimester.

    Houston’s preterm birth rate is 13.6 percent, compared to 12.2 percent nationally and 13.1 in Texas. Preterm birth is the leading cause of newborn death. Babies who survive an early birth face an increased risk of life-long health challenges, such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy, and learning disabilities. Even babies born just a few weeks early have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than “full-term” infants (39 weeks of pregnancy or more). Of these preterm births, 72 percent of them are late preterm births, or those between 34 and 36 weeks gestation—making this an important initiative to decrease the number one killer of newborns.

    About March of Dimes Houston Division

    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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