Photo: March of Dimes
Five years ago, it was difficult to get elected officials and policy leaders to pay attention to the growing crisis of preterm birth, in the U.S. as a whole and in each state. Today, that situation has reversed itself. Much of the credit goes to a very simple tool: a Report Card.
The March of Dimes has issued Premature Birth Report Cards every November since 2008. After five years, I am happy to report that policymakers are not just paying attention, they are also taking action: pledging to reduce preterm birth at the state level, devoting funding to model interventions at the federal level and spreading the word through publicity and joint advertising efforts.
Report Cards are one key tool in a decade-long effort to elevate the issue of prematurity among thought leaders, civil society, policymakers, researchers and the public. Report Cards make their contribution by providing a straightforward way to monitor progress and the motivation to do better (after all, who doesn’t want a better grade?).
Over the past five years, the difficult news of an “F” or “D” grade* became a rallying point for many, culminating in a forthright challenge by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and the March of Dimes. Together, our two organizations asked all states to pledge to reduce the rates of preterm birth by 8% by 2014. We knew we were asking for a lot, but a public, signed pledge brings accountability, which is what was needed. After the “ask” letters were sent, we crossed our fingers, hoping for a few “yes” responses.
Within five months of issuing the challenge, we had far more states saying “yes.” Top health officials in 48 of the 50 states (as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia) signed the pledge to reduce preterm birth in their state or territory.
Our U.S. events for Prematurity Awareness Month (including World Prematurity Day on November 17) are now more powerful than they have ever been. States are mobilizing to respond to the availability of new funding opportunities, and developing initiatives to follow through on their pledges to reduce preterm birth. Ads are airing prominently in many states and nationwide. And state officials are joining with the March of Dimes and other stakeholders to bring attention to all of this activity as they announce their 2012 Report Card grades today, November 13.
Too many families are suffering. For them, we want every Report Card grade to be “A”.
For more on the report cards, visit marchofdimes.com/reportcard.
* In the American grading system, an “A” is the highest grade and an “F” is the lowest grade, representing a fail.
Additional blogs related to preterm birth:
Join the Global Movement to Tackle Preterm Birth, by JoAnn Paradis Myths and Misconceptions about preterm birth, by Mary Kinney Preterm birth can be reduced if critical actions are taken, by Michael Gravett
- The true power of parents, by Nicole Thiele