Walkers and runners participate in the annual Prince George's County March of Dimes at Watkins Regional Park in Upper Marlboro on April 29. (Lateef Mangum/The Washington Informer)
Walkers and runners participate in the annual Prince George's County March of Dimes at Watkins Regional Park in Upper Marlboro on April 29. (Lateef Mangum/The Washington Informer)

In a display of support to combat premature births, approximately 500 people from Prince George’s County and 2,000 from D.C. participated in the 2017 March for Babies events in Watkins Regional Park and Nationals Park in the last weekend of April.

“We are very thankful to our participants, sponsors and supporters throughout the region and their willingness to help give every baby a fighting chance,” says Jennifer Abell, senior development manager for the March of Dimes. “We are working to change this unfortunate reality and help more moms have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies.”

Americans lead the world in medical research and care, but the nation’s preterm birth rate falls near the bottom among developed countries in the world. With one in 10 babies born premature, it is the leading contributor to infant death in the country.

Premature birth affects about 380,000 babies in the United States each year, including approximately 1,250 babies in the District and approximately 8,525 babies in Maryland.

Washington Nationals mascot Teddy warms up with participants for the annual March for Babies at Nationals Park on May 6. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)

With spirits high, marchers and organizers raised more than $700,000 to benefit the March of Dimes, a national nonprofit supporting mothers and babies for more than 75 years.

Funds raised by these marches back March of Dimes programs that provide comfort and resources to at-risk or currently affected families in need of support.

Other programs conduct innovative research to uncover why babies are born too soon or very sick and establish prevention methods.

One such program, Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait, focuses on reducing elective deliveries before 39 weeks gestation. In a world full of deadlines, limited maternity leave and shrinking health insurance coverage, families may feel pressured to schedule their due dates to fit their calendars — a mentality the program aims to combat through education and awareness campaigns, community intervention programs and hospital quality improvement.

Its strategies utilize methods with substantial, measurable impact on preterm birth rates, which have worsened for the first time in eight years, especially in vulnerable populations.

In the United States, low-income, rural and minority communities experience much higher rates for low birth weight babies and infant mortality. The preterm birth rate among black women is 48 percent higher than the rate among all other women, and D.C. ranks 47 out of all 50 states in the 2016 March of Dimes Race and Ethnicity Disparity Index with a score of 37 out of 44 (0 represents equity).

These significant racial and ethnic disparities remain major concerns for the March of Dimes and chapters continue to focus efforts on improving resources in their African-American, Hispanic, Asian-Pacific Islander and Native American communities.

“We saw today how important the health of moms and babies is to the people of Prince George’s County,” Abell said. “I’m so proud to be part of this community of people who came together to give all babies a healthy start in life. Babies should be a top priority all year round, and we’re excited about what we’ve accomplished here today.”

For resources, information and support, visit marchofdimes.org, nacersano.org, shareyourstory.org and persistats.org.

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WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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