International experts on the health of mothers and babies will come together for a panel discussion on “Prevention of Premature Births in Low- and Middle-Income Countries,” sponsored by the March of Dimes and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. This March 21 educational parallel event is being held in conjunction with the 61st Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women taking place this month. Admission is free. Panelists will discuss the importance of preconception care in the prevention of premature birth, as well as opportunities and challenges for promoting healthy behaviors, improving nutrition, and preventing infection and unplanned pregnancy to advance the health of women and infants. About 15 million babies worldwide are born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) each year, and premature birth and its consequences are the leading cause of death in children under age five. A baby’s risk of death due to premature birth depends largely on where he or she is born, according to Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth, issued in 2012. Babies who survive an early birth often have lifelong health problems such as cerebral palsy, vision and hearing loss, and intellectual disabilities. “There is growing scientific evidence showing we can reduce rates of preterm birth by improving the health of women and girls,” says Salimah R. Walani, PhD, MPH, RN, director of Global Health Programs at the March of Dimes and moderator of the panel. ”The most effective strategies include promoting healthy lifestyle and optimal nutritional status, screening for and treating infections, and ensuring access to contraception. By implementing these interventions more broadly, low- and middle-income countries could improve the health of their populations, specifically women and girls, and spare the lives and health of hundreds of thousands of their most vulnerable children.” “Sigma Gamma Rho strives to enhance the quality of life for women and their families in the U.S. and globally through community service, civil, and social action. Our goal is to achieve greater progress in the areas of education, health awareness, and leadership development,” said Deborah Catchings-Smith, international president of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. “We are honored to be a part of this educational panel that will allow us to share vital information about the prevention of prematurity with women from all around the world. Sigma Gamma Rho and March of Dimes will be intentional and impactful as we deliver facts that will improve the health of women and babies.” Panelists will include:
- Janis Biermann, MS, senior vice president for Education & Health Promotion, March of Dimes;
- Christina Guillen, MD, assistant professor of Pediatrics, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, and March of Dimes liaison to Sigma Gamma Rho;
- Suha Patel, MD, Global Health Fellow in Obstetrics & Gynecology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston.
- Willibald Zack, MD, MHA, MObGyn, senior advisor and head of the Maternal, Newborn & Adolescent Program of the United Nations Children’s Fund in NY.