Congresswoman Joins the March of Dimes in Raising Awareness about the Public Health Crisis of Premature Births in Our Country
May 12, 2010 -
Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-34) joined with several of her colleagues and the March of Dimes at an event on Capitol Hill to raise awareness about the public health crisis of preterm birth in this country.
“According to the National Vital Statistics Reports, this year more than half a million babies will be born in the United States before reaching their full term status of 37 weeks of pregnancy,” said Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard who is a member of the Appropriations Health Subcommittee, co-founded the Congressional Study Group on Public Health, and chairs the Congressional Hispanic Task Force on Health. “Tragically, 28,000 of these infants will die before they are one year old. This fact makes preterm birth the leading cause of infant mortality in the United States. These statistics are even more disturbing when you consider that the United States spends more than double per capita on childbirth than any other developed country, but ranks a daunting 29th in the world in infant mortality. This ranking, behind almost every other industrialized nation, is largely due to the disparities that exist between various racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups, and paints a very disturbing picture of our national failure to address these inequities.”
Other speakers at the event included: U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor; U.S. Rep. Donna Christensen; U.S. Rep. Lois Capps; U.S. Rep. Susan Davis; and Dr. Alan Fleischman, senior vice president and medical director, March of Dimes Foundation.
The event was organized as a precursor to an Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing about the public health crisis of preterm births in the United States scheduled for later in the day.
Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard continued, “The fact is we have a maternity care system in the United States that has not traditionally adhered to evidenced-based practices. We now know that the overuse of non-scientifically supported interventions such as elective Cesareans and inductions of labor have contributed to our high rates of preterm birth, yet these practices continue. We also know the under-use of other proven prenatal interventions, such as smoking cessation programs, have contributed to our continuing high rates of prematurity; yet we don’t place enough of an emphasis on these types of preventive programs.”
The press conference participants pledged to work together in Congress on solutions to better ensure healthier full-term babies are born in this country.
“The good news is that with the passage of health care reform, significantly greater numbers of women will have access to comprehensive prenatal care. With this increased access, it is imperative that we seriously examine the models of care and practices in our maternity care system, and make the changes necessary to provide the best evidence-based and most cost-effective care possible,” Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard said. “It is a travesty for the richest country in the world to rank behind almost every other developed country in our ability to protect our children during their first year of life. I look forward to finding creative solutions that will give all our children a chance to be born at full term.”
A longtime advocate on behalf of mothers, infants and children, the congresswoman has been honored by the March of Dimes and the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs. Both awards recognize the congresswoman’s sponsorship of the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act. The legislation was signed into law in 2008 to eliminate preventable newborn deaths and severe disabilities through the increased use of comprehensive and standardized newborn screening tests. Enactment of the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act established national newborn screening guidelines intended to make comprehensive newborn screening widely available throughout the country. The law also provides federal funding to educate parents and healthcare professionals about the importance of newborn screening, and improves the systems for follow-up care for infants detected with an illness through the newborn screening tests. In addition, the law requires the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure the quality of laboratories involved in newborn screening, and establishes a system for collecting and analyzing data that will help researchers develop better detection, prevention and treatment strategies.
As a member of the Appropriations Labor, Health Human Services, and Education Subcommittee, the congresswoman also provides ongoing support for Maternal and Child Health programs, including the Title V Maternal and Child Health Block Grant. As a federal/state partnership, Title V of the Social Security Act is one of the largest federal block grant programs dedicated to ensuring the health of all mothers, infants, children, adolescents, and children with special health care needs.