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D.C. Department of Health Receives March of Dimes Award for Reducing Prematurity Rates

March of Dimes | 3/12/2014, 3:50 p.m.
Courtesy of the March of Dimes

More babies born in Washington, D.C. have been spared the risks associated with prematurity. The District lowered its preterm birth rate by 9.9 percent since 2009, earning it the March of Dimes Virginia Apgar Prematurity Campaign Leadership Award. Today, the March of Dimes presented the award to D.C. Department of Health (DOH) Director Dr. Joxel García at a press conference highlighting efforts to decrease prematurity rates.

The District of Columbia reduced its rate of premature birth from 14.2 percent in 2009 to 12.8 percent in 2012, giving more than 130 babies each year in the District a healthier start in life.

“While it is encouraging to see the continued decline in preterm birth rate in the District of Columbia, there are still small clusters across the city that suffer from very high infant mortality rates,” said Dr. Joxel Garcia Director DC DOH. “Under the leadership of Mayor Gray, the Department of Health will continue to make long-term health investments for the city’s most vulnerable populations to ultimately reduce the infant mortality rate in the District.”

Speakers also included: Association of State and Territorial Health Officers (ASTHO) Executive Director, Paul Jarris, MD; Amy Freeman, President/CEO of Providence Hospital; Providence Hospital’s Chair, OB/GYN Department Dr. Mejebi Mayor; Karen Watts, Bureau Chief, Perinatal and Infant Health, DOC; Gloria Carroll, CenteringPregnancy® participant and Tina Cavucci, March of Dimes Maryland-National Capital Chapter Director.

“This award is a reflection of the effort and dedication of health care providers and organizations throughout the District, and we congratulate them on the work they have done to help babies,” said Tina Cavucci, Chapter Director for the March of Dimes Maryland-National Capital Area Chapter. “This progress shows that when infant health becomes a leadership priority, significant progress is possible, and families and babies benefit.”

The Virginia Apgar Award recognizes states and territories that accepted and met the challenge from the March of Dimes and ASTHO to lower their preterm birth rate by 8 percent between 2009 and 2014. The award is named in honor of Virginia Apgar, MD, who developed the five-point APGAR score to evaluate an infant’s health at birth.

Fifty states as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have taken the ASTHO Challenge. In addition to Washington, D.C., Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Indiana,

Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Wyoming have also received the

Virginia Apgar Award.

To reduce the preterm birth rate, March of Dimes staff and volunteers are working closely with D.C. health officials on the “Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait” educational campaign, which urges hospitals, health care providers and patients to follow the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists guidelines that if a pregnancy is healthy, to wait for labor to begin on its own. The final weeks of pregnancy are crucial to a baby’s health because many vital organs, including the brain and lungs, are still developing.

The March of Dimes also funds community programs to help women have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies. Two examples found at Providence Hospital include Centering Pregnancy®, which is a model of group prenatal care, and Stork’s Nests, a collaborative project with the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. to provide prenatal education and prenatal care incentives for pregnant women.