Can you imagine a day when all babies are born healthy? To make that day a reality, MemorialCare Medical Centers and the March of Dimes joined together with thousands of others to end prematurity the leading cause of newborn death. They also seek to assist families with a newborn in intensive care, secure health coverage for all Californians and support Nobel Prize winning research that identifies prevention of and solutions for premature birth and birth defects.
Smart Business spoke to Barry Arbuckle, Ph.D., MemorialCare president and CEO and chair of March for Babies 2009, the March of Dimes largest fund-raiser, to learn more.
What’s the situation in California?
One in 10 California babies that’s 55,000 annually is born premature. Some are so small you could slide an adult’s ring up to the top of their leg. The Neonatal Intensive Care Units at MemorialCare Medical Centers see hundreds of these tiny newborns more than 1,000 annually at Miller Children’s Hospital, Long Beach, the state’s largest children’s hospital and biggest neonatal intensive care unit in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties. These babies struggle for each and every breath, and it is our responsibility to fight for their lives, their health, their families and our societal well-being.
What factors contribute to premature births?
About one in four women of childbearing age in California has no insurance coverage, and one in nine is a smoker. Health care access before and during pregnancy can help identify and manage the conditions that contribute to premature birth. Smoking cessation programs can reduce risks of premature birth. The Institute of Medicine estimates the economic cost of prematurity at $26 billion annually more than half billed to employers and private insurers.
How does California rank among the rest of the nation?
In the March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card, California received a ‘C’ and the nation a ‘D’ on the numbers of premature births. While our state rates among the top 10 percent in the U.S., we need to further fund research to uncover causes of premature birth that lead to prevention strategies and better outcomes and promote workplaces that support maternal and infant health.
In what ways does the March of Dimes help?
As the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, the March of Dimes improves the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. Health facilities like Miller Children’s Hospital can take advantage of its Preterm Labor Assessment Toolkit that standardizes assessment for women who come to a hospital with signs and symptoms of premature labor. The March of Dimes spearheads life-saving research and forums for promoting optimal health before and between pregnancies. Its prenatal programs include volunteer health education for African-American churches and prenatal education sessions for Latina women. Miller Children’s Hospital is the first Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in California to receive a grant from March of Dimes to offer 24-7 education, comfort and support activities for families during and following stays in the neonatal intensive care unit more than 700 families have been helped in the last year.
How can employers create a family-friendly workplace?
Our children’s health is our first priority. March of Dimes suggests offering employees information on preconception, prenatal, postnatal and infant care as well as healthy pregnancy and childbirth through classes, brochures, e-mail or directed Web sites; providing an environment that is smoke-, drug- and toxin-free; encouraging health activities like walking, healthy food choices and fitness resources; and ensuring scheduling flexibility that allows time off for prenatal and pediatric appointments. Employers may also provide reasonable physical accommodations for pregnant employees, such as a place to rest when needed and a private area where lactating women can pump and store breast milk, and offer health insurance coverage with comprehensive preconception, prenatal, childbirth and postnatal care, including immunizations and maternal depression screening, or facilitating through a liaison the application for insurance through state or private agencies.
Employers can register for the complimentary March of Dimes Healthy Babies Healthy Business work site wellness education at marchofdimes.com/hbhb.
How else can employers help?
Southern California businesses, individuals, families and community groups can join in these critical efforts on behalf of California children by signing up for 2009 March for Babies events April 25 in Los Angeles, Riverside and Victorville; April 26 in Newport Beach; and May 16 in Simi Valley by calling (800) 525-9255 or at marchforbabies.org. Or contact me directly and we’ll help you to participate in these events that support the important work of the March of Dimes.
BARRY ARBUCKLE, Ph.D., is president and CEO of MemorialCare Medical Centers (www.memorialcare.org) and past chair of the California Hospital Association. Reach him at email@example.com or (562) 933-9708. MemorialCare Medical Centers include Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills, Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Anaheim Memorial Medical Center, Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach and Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in San Clemente.