Posted on October 16, 2003
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) today joined Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) to announce the introduction of legislation which would expand research on premature births and improve education for expectant mothers. "Premature infants are 14 times more likely to die in their first year than infants who are carried to term," said Alexander. "Tennessee has the fourth highest rate of preterm births in the nation, and prematurity accounted for 31 percent of all childhood deaths in Tennessee in 2000. We need to do all we can to help parents raise healthy children. This bill targets the earliest and most critical stages of a child's life." "We must do everything we can to provide new mothers with the tools they need to protect the health of their infants during what is an exciting and crucial time," said Dodd, ranking Democrate of the Subcommittee on Children and Families. "This legislation is an important step in the right direction towards preventing premature birth and providing better care for infants born prematurely." The Prematurity Research Expansion and Education for Mothers Who Deliver Infants Early (PREEMIE) Act aims to reduce infant mortality caused by prematurity by expanding and coordinating the research of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on preterm labor, delivery and care as well as the treatment of low-birthweight babies. The cause of nearly 50 percent of all premature births is unknown. The legislation also creates demonstration projects through the Department of Health and Human Services to educate health professionals and the public on the signs of preterm labor, good nutrition, smoking cessation, stress management, as well as programs to improve treatment and outcomes for premature babies. The bill also authorizes grants for Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Family Support programs for family counseling needs. Alexander and Dodd were joined at a press conference on Capitol Hill today by Dr. Jennifer Howse, president of the March of Dimes, representatives from Tennessee and Connecticut March of Dimes chapters, 8-year-old Emma Henderson, the 2003 March of Dimes National Ambassador, and her parents Susan and Jeff. Emma was a premature baby, born almost three months too early. By age one, she had five neurosurgeries and laser eye surgery to save her sight. She has been diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy. In January, the March of Dimes launched a five-year, $75 million campaign to prevent prematurity. As national ambassador, Emma is the spokesperson for the campaign. She and her mother travel the country to educate and raise awareness about healthy children.