WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-34) joined with several of her colleagues and the March of Dimes at an event on Capitol Hill earlier this month 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 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." Several other Congress members spoke at the event, along with 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. "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," Roybal-Allard continued. "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," Roybal-Allard said. "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." "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."
********** Published: May 28, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 6