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|Formation||January 3, 1938|
|Headquarters||White Plains, New York, U.S.|
|President||Jennifer L. Howse|
|This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (January 2013)|
|Formation||January 3, 1938|
|Headquarters||White Plains, New York, U.S.|
|President||Jennifer L. Howse|
The March of Dimes Foundation is a United States nonprofit organization that works to improve the health of mothers and babies. It was founded by then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938 to combat polio. It has since taken up promoting general health for pregnant women and babies.
The March of Dimes is a not-for-profit organization with 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. The mission of the March of Dimes is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. The foundation is headquartered in White Plains, NY and has 51 chapters across the U.S., including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The March of Dimes provides mothers, pregnant women and women of childbearing age with educational resources on baby health, pregnancy, preconception and new motherhood, as well as supplying information and support to families affected by prematurity, birth defects, or other infant health problems.
The organization began as the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. The name "March of Dimes"—coined in the late 1930s by vaudeville star Eddie Cantor as a play on the contemporary newsreel series "The March of Time"—was originally used for the foundation's annual fundraising event that requested each child donate a dime. At the Christmas season, booths were set up in cities where the children could drop their dime in a slot. These were out on the street and sometimes not even overseen by anyone. Gradually the name became synonymous with that of the organization. It was officially adopted as the organization’s name in 1976, when it became known as the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation. In 2007, the name became the March of Dimes Foundation.
The group was founded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 3, 1938, as a response to U.S. epidemics of polio, a condition that can leave people with permanent physical disabilities. Roosevelt was himself diagnosed with polio in 1921, and it left him unable to move his legs. The foundation was an alliance between scientists and volunteers, with volunteers raising money to support research and education efforts. Basil O'Connor, an attorney and close associate of Roosevelt, helped establish the foundation. O'Connor became its president in 1938, a position he held for more than three decades. His first task was to create a network of local chapters that could raise money and deliver aid; more than 3,100 county chapters were established during his tenure. From 1938 through the approval of the Salk vaccine in 1955, the foundation spent $233 million on polio patient care, which led to more than 80 percent of U.S. polio patients' receiving significant[clarification needed] foundation aid.[verification needed]
Following widespread use of the Polio vaccine, the organization was faced with disbanding or steering its resources toward a new mission. Basil O’Connor, then the organization's president, directed his staff to identify strengths and weaknesses and reformulate its mission. The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (NFIP) shortened its name to the National Foundation (NF) in 1958 and launched its "Expanded Program" against birth defects, arthritis, and virus diseases, seeking to become a "flexible force" in the field of public health. In the mid-1960s, the organization focused its efforts on prevention of birth defects and infant mortality, which became its mission. At this time, the cause of birth defects was unknown; only the effects were visible. In 1976, the organization changed its name to the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation. Reducing the toll of premature birth was added as a mission objective in 2005.
Rubella, also called German measles, is associated with a disorder called congenital rubella syndrome, which can cause miscarriages and birth defects such as deafness, blindness and mental retardation. Vaccination is an effective preventive measure. On behalf of the March of Dimes, Virginia Apgar testified to the United States Senate in 1969 about the importance of federal funding of a rubella immunization program, and the organization funded[clarification needed] a vaccine, which was licensed in the early 1970s. In 2006, a statement published in Birth Defects Research Part A credited the "remarkable success of the immunization program to eliminate rubella is due to joint efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, various state and local health departments, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the March of Dimes".
In 1976, the March of Dimes published a report titled Toward Improving the Outcome of Pregnancy (TIOP), and in 1993 they published Toward Improving the Outcome of Pregnancy: The 90s and Beyond (TIOP II). TIOP "stratified maternal and neonatal care into 3 levels of complexity and recommended referral of high-risk patients to centers with the personnel and resources needed for their degree of risk and severity of illness." TIOP was published when "resources for the most complex care were relatively scarce and concentrated in academic medical centers." TIOP II updated care complexity designations from levels I, II and III to basic, specialty and subspecialty, and the criteria were expanded. In 2001, the March of Dimes introduced a family support program for those with babies in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The program seeks to educate NICU staff to communicate effectively with patients' families. The March of Dimes hosted the Symposium on Quality Improvement to Prevent Prematurity in October 2009. In December 2010, the March of Dimes released TIOP III, subtitled Enhancing Perinatal Health Through Quality, Safety, and Performance Initiatives.
Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is categorized as a group of birth defects ranging from mental retardation to various growth and behavioral problems. The March of Dimes has provided grant funding for FAS research, and they supported the National Council on Alcoholism in its push for legislation to bring public attention to the dangers of alcohol use by pregnant women.[verification needed] This led to a 1989 law mandating a warning label about the risk of birth defects that alcoholic beverages still carry today.[verification needed]
The March of Dimes has campaigned for public education on folic acid, a vitamin which can prevent spina bifida and anencephaly if mothers have enough of it in their body. The March of Dimes has funded polls on folic acid from The Gallup Organization. Analysis of some of the results, said that women aged 18–24 years had the least awareness regarding folic acid consumption or knowledge about when it should be taken. On the issue, the organization partnered with the Grain Foods Foundation, an industry group, in public education efforts.
Awareness about preterm birth, which is associated with a variety of negative health outcomes, is an organizational goal. According to an editorial in the May 2004 issue of the Journal of the National Medical Association, the original goals of the campaign were to raise awareness of the problem from 35 percent to at least 60 percent and to decrease the rate of premature births by at least 15 percent (from 11.9 percent to 10.1 percent). In 2008, the Prematurity Campaign was extended by the Board of Trustees until 2020, and global targets were set for prematurity prevention. In 2008, the March of Dimes started its annual Premature Birth Report Card, which grades the nation and each individual state on preterm birth rates.
March of Dimes states on its website that it supports mandated newborn screening of all babies in all states in the U.S. for at least 30 life-threatening conditions for which effective treatment and reliable testing is available to prevent catastrophic consequences to the child.
In 2003, the March of Dimes began releasing an annual, state-by-state report card on each state’s adoption of expanded newborn screening recommended by the American College of Medical Genetics. March of Dimes president Jennifer L. Howse, Ph.D. has stated that this program is intended to inform parents of the tests available in their state, enabling those with affected babies to pursue early treatment.
According to a presentation at the 2005 annual meeting of the American Public Health Association, individual, state-based March of Dimes chapters work with governors, state legislators, health departments, health professionals, and parents to improve state newborn screening programs and to make comprehensive newborn screening programs available to every newborn throughout the country.
In 2005, only 38 percent of infants were born in states that required screening for 21 or more of 29 core conditions recommended by the American College of Medical Genetics; but by 2009, all 50 states and the District of Columbia required screening for 21 or more of these treatable disorders.
The March for Dimes supported the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Reauthorization Act of 2013 (H.R. 1281; 113th Congress), a bill that would amend the Public Health Service Act to reauthorize grant programs and other initiatives to promote expanded screening of newborns and children for heritable disorders. The organization encouraged its supporters to "tell Congress that you support" the bill. The March of Dimes described the bill as reauthorizing "critical federal activities that assist states in improving and expanding their newborn screening programs, supporting parents and provider newborns screening education, and ensuring laboratory quality and surveillance."
The March of Dimes has lobbied the United States' Congress to support the continuation of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) in 2007 and 2009. SCHIP is a program that provides health insurance to 11 million low-income children and pregnant women. March of Dimes partnered with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Association of Children's Hospitals (NACH) on the issue.
The March of Dimes published their Global Report on Birth Defects in 2006, which estimated birth defects' global burden.
In 2009, the March of Dimes partnered with the Department of Reproductive Health and Research of the World Health Organization (RHR/WHO) to publish a white paper on the global and regional toll of preterm birth worldwide. This report, which was the first attempt to identify the global scope of premature births and related infant deaths, found that an estimated 13 million infants worldwide are born premature each year and more than one million of them die in their first month of life. Further, premature births account for 9.6 percent of total births and for 28 percent of newborn deaths. The highest rates of premature birth are in Africa, followed by North America (Canada and the United States combined).
Established in 1970, the March for Babies, previously called WalkAmerica, is the largest fundraiser of the year for the March of Dimes, as well as the oldest nationwide charitable walking event. In the decades since, many other organizations have used the "walk-athon" format to help raise money. Funds raised by the event support March of Dimes-sponsored research and other programs to prevent premature birth, birth defects and infant mortality.
According to the March of Dimes, March for Babies is held in more than 900 communities across the nation. Every year, 1 million people—including 20,000 company teams, family teams and national sponsors—participate in the event, which has raised more than $1.8 billion since 1970. The March of Dimes states that seventy-six cents of every dollar raised in March for Babies is spent on research and programs to help prevent premature birth, birth defects and infant mortality.
Once rare in the United States, cases of pertussis (whooping cough) are appearing across the country with greater frequency. To address this issue, the March of Dimes and Sanofi Pasteur launched a national education campaign in 2010 called "Sounds of Pertussis" to raise awareness about the seriousness of pertussis and the need for adult vaccination to prevent infecting babies. NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon is a national spokesperson for the campaign. The campaign recently sponsored a song-writing contest called Sound Off About Pertussis, which was won by Maria Bennett with her original song, "Give Pertussis a Whooping."
In 2007, the March of Dimes, the Johnson & Johnson Pediatric Institute, and the Kentucky Department for Public Health partnered with six Kentucky hospitals to launch “Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait,” a health promotion and prematurity prevention initiative intended to reduce the rate of preventable preterm births in targeted areas of Kentucky. The primary goal of Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait is a 15 percent reduction in the rate of singleton (one baby) preterm births in these targeted areas.
The March of Dimes Perinatal Data Center includes the PeriStats Web site, which provides free access to U.S., state, county, and city maternal and infant health data.
Animal rights organizations have raised concerns about March of Dimes-funded medical research involving animals. The foundation states it supports the use of non-animal research alternatives wherever possible.
In his book Essentials of Sociology: A Down-to-Earth Approach, sociologist Professor James M. Henslin describes March of Dimes as a bureaucracy that has taken on a life of its own through a classic example of a process called goal displacement. Faced with redundancy after Jonas Salk discovered the polio vaccine, it adopted a new mission, "fighting birth defects", which was recently changed to a vaguer goal of "breakthrough for babies", rather than disbanding.
Charity Navigator, an organization that attempts to quantify the effectiveness of charities, has given the organization a rating of two stars (out of four). This is a merged score that attributes both a Financial as well as Accountability & Transparency rating to a non-profit. As of Fiscal Year 2012, Charity Navigator gives a 64.68 out of 100 score for Financial and a 97.00 out of 100 for Accountability & Transparency. This gives the March of Dimes a merged score of 74.93, leading to their two star status.
Another criticism has been that President Jennifer Howse's compensation is high. In 2011 the March of Dimes 990 reported it was $545,982. In 2012 her compensation was reduced to $526,679. In a separate Charity Navigator Report entitled 2012 CEO Compensation, they reported that CEO salaries in the Northeast and Pacific West are higher than in other parts of the country. The report also outlines that larger charities compensate their CEO's much better than smaller charities. The median CEO salary in 2012 for $200–500 million a year charities is $418,324 (page 6), making Jennifer Howse's compensation about 25% higher than the median.
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