January 1, 2001
Letters to the Editor
Be a hero for Northshore's tiniest babies
By E. Peter Stiles
As we start the new year, let's resolve to help all Woodinville babies be born healthy. Everyone can get involved.
Each year, more than 450,000 babies across the United States are born prematurely (prematurity is defined as "birth less than 37 weeks of pregnancy". Many premature babies are born too small - some the size of a dollar bill. Indeed, about 75 percent of infants who die in the first month are premature.
Many premature babies (or pre-term) infants who weigh less than 5 1/2 pounds will have breathing problems or suffer lifelong medical complications such as cerebral palsy, visual and hearing disabilities and mental retardation.
It's a local issue. According to the Washington State Department of Health, approximately 6 percent of King County babies - including those from Woodinville families - are born before the 37th week.
March of Dimes - Saving Babies Together
No one knows why that happens. Although vast improvements have been made in treating infants born too soon, there has been little success in understanding or preventing prematurity.
Through lifesaving research and innovative programs, the March of Dimes is searching for causes and developing preventions and treatments that will enable all babies to get a healthy start in life.
The March of Dimes contributed start-up money and equipment to create many of the neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) around the country that treat tiny, sick newborns.
We recently launched a $3.75 million Perinatal Epidemiological Research Initiative (PERI) to research some of the possible causes of prematurity, which include stress, low socioeconomic status and genetic predisposition.
Locally, the March of Dimes awards chapter grants to community-based organizations for pre-conception and prenatal education. It's all part of the March of Dimes mission to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects and infant mortality.
What can you do?
Anyone who cares about the health of King County's future generations - parents, grandparents, teachers, administrators, elected and government officials, employers - can get involved.
Encourage loved ones to do what they can to help a child be born healthy: get prenatal care, take multivitamins that contain folic acid, reduce stress, and definitely don't drink or smoke during pregnancy. They also can get involved in the March of Dimes annual WalkAmerica fund-raiser, the country's oldest walking event, which has been saving babies for more than 30 years.
In 2000, nearly 2,000 walkers in King County raised more than $400,000 to support research and programs that give babies born prematurely a fighting chance at life. For more information about WalkAmerica - or how you can help in the battle against prematurity - contact the March of Dimes at 1-800-291-DIME.
If you get involved - on whatever level - you'll be a local hero because you took a step for King County's tiniest babies.
E. Peter Stiles, president of Human Resources of Seattle, is chair of the King County Executive Committee for the March of Dimes Washington State Chapter. He has been a March of Dimes volunteer for the past 12 years.
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