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March of Dimes Honors Babies on 'El Dia de Todos los Santos'

More than 5,000 Latino Infants Don't Live to See their First Birthday

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On "El Dia de Todos Los Santos" the March of Dimes is honoring all babies -- those born healthy, those who need help to thrive and survive, and those who died in infancy.

Nearly 28,000 infants die before their first birthday each year -- more than 5,000 to Latina mothers and more than 2,500 in California alone.

Vicente Perez, Jr. is just one of those.

He was born 13 weeks too soon on August 25, 2005, along with his two sisters, Priscilla and Melissa. The triplets spent months in hospital neonatal intensive care units. Priscilla and Melissa finally came home, but Vicente lived only six months.

"Parents are not supposed to bury their children," said his father, Vicente Perez, Sr. "Vicente was our only son and we had to bury him. We lost part of our lives when we lost him."

Mr. Perez's story is one of thousands being gathered by the March of Dimes across the country as part of Prematurity Awareness Month in November. People can share their stories online at or by getting on board a specially equipped "Every Baby Story Tour" motorcoach that will visit 16 cities across the country.

Mr. Perez shared his story at a breakfast for the news media at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, where he was joined by Dayanara Torres, star of CW-TV's Watch Over Me, and Carolina Reyes, MD, the Executive Director of the Los Angeles Best Babies Network, a coordinating body for the Healthy Births Initiative.

"Latinos are the largest and fastest growing ethnic group in the United States. More than 100,000 Latino infants are born premature each year and the rate of preterm birth among Latinos has increased nearly 10 percent over the past decade -- from 10.9 percent in 1994 to 12 percent in 2004," said Dr. Reyes. "Prematurity is the leading cause of newborn death."

Nationwide, more than a half million babies are born too soon each year and babies who do survive face lifelong health risks and developmental challenges. Premature births (birth before 37 weeks gestation) in the United States have increased more than 30 percent since 1981, and in 2004 more than 520,000 infants were born too soon.

In California, nearly 11 percent of babies -- more than 50,000 -- were born premature in 2004, an increase of about 7 percent over the previous decade.

"Having a premature baby is very painful; imagine having three clinging to life?" asked Mr. Perez. "Our babies were being cared for at different hospitals. One day, I got emergency calls from both hospitals saying my babies were very sick. I didn't know where to go. They were all my children and they needed me there."

The March of Dimes is a national voluntary health agency whose mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality. Founded in 1938, the March of Dimes funds programs of research, community services, education, and advocacy. For more information, visit the March of Dimes Web site at or its Spanish language Web site at

SOURCE March of Dimes
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