MARCH OF DIMES HELPING BABIES AND PREGNANT WOMEN IMPERILED BY HURRICANE KATRINA

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., SEPT. 15, 2005 - The March of Dimes is mobilizing its nationwide network of chapters and volunteers to meet the needs of sick and premature babies and pregnant women imperiled by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, including many evacuees.

"We're assisting hospitals, shelters, and towns throughout Louisiana and Mississippi that are overwhelmed with trying to care for so many displaced mothers and babies in desperate need of lifesaving help and support, especially extremely fragile premature babies," said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes.

For example, about 100 sick and premature babies from hospitals in New Orleans and Mississippi were airlifted or transported to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Women's Hospital of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the site of a new March of Dimes NICU Family Support project. March of Dimes specialists are already at work at Women's Hospital to provide direct service and support for NICU parents during this difficult time. The hospital has also asked the March of Dimes for help with supplies such as formula and diapers for healthy babies and those being discharged. Extremely small NICU babies require special medical supplies, which the March of Dimes is obtaining with donations by Children's Medical Ventures.

The March of Dimes is activating and expanding its national network of 171 Stork's Nests, a cooperative program with Zeta Phi Beta Sorority. Through Stork's Nest, pregnant women in need will get maternity clothes, baby clothes and furniture at minimal or no cost. The program also will integrate women living in shelters and temporary housing into health education seminars including prenatal care, nutrition, infant care, and parenting.

"Zeta Phi Beta's network of local chapters is joining the national and March of Dimes effort to respond to the needs of those who have lost so much as a result of Hurricane Katrina," said Barbara C. Moore, International President. "Our Stork's Nest facilities have been a tremendous resource for women and their infants for over 30 years. Expanding the program to include the communities and individual impacted by the hurricane is a natural extension of our service commitment."

In addition, March of Dimes volunteers who themselves are parents of premature babies are filling and donating "Share Baskets" of small items they know will be immediately useful for families and their babies who are in the NICU.

March of Dimes chapters in affected areas are distributing health education information to help women who are pregnant or breastfeeding to cope with nutrition, safe water, and safe preparation of infant formula, as well as teaching the signs and symptoms of premature labor. For those with Internet access, this information also is available on the March of Dimes Web site at marchofdimes.com.

The March of Dimes also is shipping maternity clothes donated by Motherhood Maternity and newborn and toddler clothing donated by Gymboree to Louisiana and Mississippi hospitals and shelters that have requested them. Many of these supplies are being shipped by FedEx as a donated service.

The March of Dimes Louisiana Chapter staff and volunteers worked with state and local authorities to coordinate the delivery of ready-to-feed infant formula, donated by Mead Johnson, to the New Orleans Convention Center and then to airport triage areas where evacuees were brought, for distribution to babies who were in dire need of nutrition.

Ongoing Needs in Affected Areas

The March of Dimes says the long-term needs for mothers and babies in affected areas that must be addressed over the next 3 to 12 months include:

  • an expected rise in the number of babies born prematurely, who will require specialized NICUs, equipment and care;
  • a potentially large increase in the number of births in towns and cities such as Baton Rouge and Jackson, Mississippi that are housing evacuees, putting strain on existing facilities and services;
  • organizing and deploying more outreach workers and trained health professionals to provide prenatal care and counseling for displaced pregnant women;
  • updated information for pregnant women and families on available services as situations change;
  • multivitamins with folic acid for women of childbearing age and pregnant women to reduce the risk of neural tube birth defects;
  • purchasing infant and child vaccinations for shelters and clinics.

You can help by sending a monetary donation that can be used in the areas of greatest need. Donations can be made to the March of Dimes by visiting its Web site at marchofdimes.com. Through the Web site, you may also donate directly to the Louisiana or Mississippi chapter or any chapter you choose.

The March of Dimes is a national voluntary health agency whose mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. Founded in 1938, the March of Dimes funds programs of research, community services, education, and advocacy to save babies and in 2003 launched a campaign to address the increasing rate of premature birth. For more information, visit the March of Dimes Web site at marchofdimes.com or its Spanish language Web site at nacersano.org.

Contact Info

Todd P. Dezen
(914) 997-4608
tdezen@marchofdimes.com

Elizabeth Lynch
(914) 997-4286
elynch@marchofdimes.com

Robert Storace
(914) 997-4622
rstorace@marchofdimes.com

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