March Of Dimes Launches 75M Drive

    GRAND RAPIDS — The March of Dimes announced yesterday that it will launch a new five-year, $75 million campaign gears toward premature births.

    The campaign’s goals will be to increase awareness of the growing problem and decrease the rate of premature birth. In 2001 more than 476,000 babies, or nearly 12 percent of live births, were born too soon, before 37 weeks, in the United States, according to MOD statistics.

    At a press conference yesterday that joined the state and local effort for the launch of the new campaign, Mayor John Logie stated that he wanted the city to join the efforts of the March of Dimes and also signed a proclamation deeming Jan. 30, 2003, Prematurity Awareness Day.

    It was also a special day to launch the campaign, as it was held on the birth date of former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, founder of the March of Dimes.

    “We chose this day to remind us of the success the March of Dimes has achieved since the first day,” said Cathy Gee, executive director of the March of Dimes Western Division. “FDR set out to find a cure for polio. We did, and now we hope to have the same success in helping prevent premature births.”

    Over the next five years March of Dimes will invest $75 million and will raise new funds to support research into the causes and treatment of premature births. The campaign will also advocate for an increase of $10 million annually in federally funded research into the causes of premature births.

    In an average week in Michigan, 304 babies are born prematurely. The rate of premature birth in Michigan is 11.6 percent, ranking Michigan 25th in the nation for premature births.

    “Our history, our track record and our mission to improve infant health uniquely qualify the March of Dimes to call the question,” said Dr. Jennifer Howse, president of March of Dimes.

    “But this will be a tough campaign, more difficult than finding the vaccine for polio and folic acid education. We can’t do this alone. We need the support of the American public, health professionals, the corporate community and federal and state government officials.”           

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