New data from federal government shows that the health of pregnant women and babies is getting worse, the March of Dimes says now is not the time to cut maternity benefits.
Throughout its long history, the March of Dimes has played a critical role in shaping national and state policies that impact the health of women, infants, children and families.
The National Center for Health Statistics today released provisional birth data that show that the preterm birth rate rose to 9.84 percent in 2016, up 2 percent from 9.63 in 2015, marking the second consecutive increase after steady declines over the previous seven years.
“As the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, the March of Dimes is working to ensure that every baby has the healthiest start in life,” says Stacey D. Stewart, president of the March of Dimes. “The increase in the preterm birth rate is an alarming indication that the health of pregnant women and babies in our country is heading in the wrong direction.”
“Preterm birth is the number one cause of death among babies and a leading cause of lifelong disabilities,” Ms. Stewart says. “Now is the time to increase our investments in a healthier nation by expanding access to quality prenatal care and promoting proven ways to help reduce the risk of preterm birth, such the group model of prenatal care and helping women quit smoking. It is not the time to make it harder for women to get the care they need to have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.”
As the Senate considers the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), Ms. Stewart says, the March of Dimes is concerned by proposed cuts to Medicaid and other changes to rules about maternity and newborn care. The March of Dimes estimates that ending Medicaid expansion would result in up to 6.5 million women of childbearing age becoming uninsured. Combined with the rules changes, this would mean fewer pregnant women would receive prenatal care, and fewer premature babies would receive the specialized treatment they need to survive and thrive.
Ms. Stewart noted that persistent underlying racial and ethnic disparities play a role in preterm birth. “March of Dimes work to give every baby a healthy start is more vital than ever. It is unacceptable that black women have a preterm birth rate about 50 percent higher than the rate among white women. The chance of a baby’s survival should not depend on where a baby is born, or the income, race, and ethnicity of her mom,” she says.
Focusing specifically on the nation’s most challenged communities, March of Dimes seeks broader use of proven interventions to prevent preterm birth, including:
- Wider use of group prenatal care;
- Reducing non-medically indicated (elective) deliveries;
- Reducing tobacco use among women before, during, and after pregnancy;
- Increasing use of progesterone for women with a history of prior preterm birth;
- Optimizing birth spacing (waiting 18 months between giving birth and getting pregnant again) and reducing unintended pregnancies;
- Increasing use of low-dose aspirin to prevent preeclampsia;
- Advancing interventions for women diagnosed with a short cervix;
- Reducing multiple births conceived through assisted reproductive technology.
March of Dimes victories and accomplishments:
- The March of Dimes led a coalition of almost 100 health, public health, provider and other organizations in successfully championing Congressional passage of $1.1 billion for research and prevention efforts to combat Zika virus.
- The March of Dimes played a critical role in promoting the inclusion of key maternal and child health provisions in the 21st Century Cures Act. These included the creation of a federal task force to make recommendations about including pregnant and breastfeeding women in clinical trials in order to increase knowledge of medication safety during pregnancy and lactation; providing grants to states to increase screening for and treatment of postpartum depression; and removing a key barrier to the development of vaccines for use during pregnancy.
- The March of Dimes, in partnership with many other organizations, successfully promoted passage of much-needed reforms to the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act, the law that regulates all chemicals in commerce in the U.S. The law now requires special evaluation of the impact chemicals will have on pregnant women, infants and children.
- The March of Dimes successfully concluded an almost decade-long effort to persuade the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to permit voluntary fortification of corn masa flour – a dietary staple for many Hispanic families – with the B vitamin folic acid. Folic acid helps prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine known as neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.
- Across the nation, March of Dimes accumulated 110 victories on key maternal and child health issues, such as newborn screening, health coverage, birth spacing and smoking cessation.
- The March of Dimes championed Congressional passage of Public Law 114-91, the Protecting Our Infants Act, a bill to support efforts to collect and disseminate strategies and best practices to prevent and treat maternal opioid use and abuse, as well as to provide recommendations for diagnosing and treating babies suffering from withdrawal after birth.
- Across the nation, March of Dimes chapters have accumulated 128 victories on key maternal and child health issues, such as newborn screening, access to care, and tobacco cessation.
- The March of Dimes led a broad coalition of organizations in championing Congressional passage of Public Law 113-240, the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Reauthorization Act, a bill to renew federal programs that support states’ efforts to screen every newborn for dozens of conditions that can threaten their lives or health. (For more, see In this Topic box.)
- Across the nation, March of Dimes chapters accumulated 88 victories on key maternal and child health issues, such as newborn screening, access to care, and immunizations.
- The March of Dimes, in partnership with many other stakeholders, led efforts to promote and secure Congressional passage of Public Law 113-55, the PREEMIE Act, a bill to focus federal programs on prevention, education and research on preterm birth. (For more, see In this Topic box.)
- The March of Dimes also led concerned organizations in persuading Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to use her authority to extend the Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders, the committee that makes recommendations about which conditions all newborns should be screened for. Without this action, the committee would have gone dormant until Congress renewed it, suspending its vital work.
- Across the nation, March of Dimes chapters accumulated 104 victories on key maternal and child health issues, such as newborn screening, access to care, and tobacco cessation.
- The March of Dimes obtained the cosponsorship of two-thirds of all U.S. Representatives and all U.S. Senators for its March of Dimes Commemorative Coin Act, a bill to authorize the U.S. Mint to strike a commemorative coin in 2015 to mark the March of Dimes 75th anniversary, with a portion of proceeds going to the March of Dimes.
- Across the nation, March of Dimes chapters accumulated over 70 victories on key maternal and child health issues, such as access to care, newborn screening, and folic acid promotion.
- The March of Dimes played a critical role in promoting the inclusion of key maternal and child health provisions in Public Law 111-148, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). These included the explicit inclusion of maternity care and newborn care among essential health benefits and full coverage of tobacco cessation for women covered by Medicaid.
- The March of Dimes was a key player in the development and passage of Public Law 111-3, the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act. In particular, the March of Dimes helped craft landmark new quality measurement and improvement provisions, which were later used as a model for other national efforts.
- The March of Dimes led efforts to draft and pass Public Law 110-204, the original Newborn Screening Saves Lives Reauthorization Act, to bring greater consistency to newborn screening programs nationwide.
- The March of Dimes championed the development and passage of Public Law 109-298, the PREEMIE Act, a bill to focus federal efforts in support of the then-new March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign.
- The March of Dimes played a key role in passage of Public Law 106-310, the Children’s Health Act, a landmark package of bills to improve child health. Of special note, this law created the National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), expanded federal folic acid promotion programs, broadened Safe Motherhood programs at CDC, established the federal newborn hearing screening grants program, and created the Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children.
- The March of Dimes was deeply involved in the creation and passage of Public Law 105-33, a major budget bill which also created the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (now known as CHIP).