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Experts to develop national response to growing crisis of premature birth

JUNE 9, 2008, WHITE PLAINS, NY Experts from throughout the United States will gather to develop a comprehensive national action plan to address the growing crisis of preterm birth.

The conference, convened by Acting Surgeon General Steven K. Galson, MD, MPH, RADM, USPHS and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), will be held June 16 and 17 in Rockville, MD. It is a key element of the PREEMIE Act (P.L. 109-450), signed into law December 2006, which calls for expanding federal support for research, education and pilot testing strategies to prevent preterm birth.

"The March of Dimes is pleased to work with Rear Admiral Galson, NICHD and experts from the public and private sectors to outline specific steps that can be taken to slow the rising rate of preterm birth," said Jennifer L. Howse, PhD, president of the March of Dimes. "Prematurity prevention needs to be a national health care priority; America cannot continue to allow the cries of these babies to go unheeded."

The March of Dimes expects the conference will identify how to expand research into the causes of preterm labor, how to help families with infants hospitalized in intensive care units and intervention and education programs that can reduce a woman's risk for preterm birth, said Dr. Howse. More information about the conference can be found at

Betty Taylor, mother of 9-year-old Zeek, the 2007 March of Dimes National Ambassador who was born 14 weeks too soon and continues to fight the consequences of preterm birth, will participate in the conference to ensure that parents' concerns and needs are addressed.

Preterm birth is a serious and costly health problem and is the leading cause of death in the first month of life. More than 520,000 babies one out of every eight are born too soon each year in the United States, and the rate has increased more than 20 percent since 1990.

Babies who survive an early birth face serious lifelong health problems including learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, blindness, hearing loss and other chronic conditions including asthma. Even infants born just a few weeks too soon have a greater risk for respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), feeding difficulties, temperature instability (hypothermia), jaundice, delayed brain development and death.

The plan of action will address key areas, including research, treatment, education and prevention.


Contact: Elizabeth Lynch
March of Dimes Foundation

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