November 16, 2011

Sarasota Leads Statewide Prematurity Awareness Month Campaign

Would you please pass the cranberry sauce and the facts?

Just as families are preparing to gather together in celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday, the Florida Association of Healthy Start Coalitions (FAHSC) and March of Dimes Florida Chapter are launching a campaign as part of Prematurity Awareness Month (November). “Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait” is designed to raise awareness about the myths and risks of premature births, as well as educate the public about the importance of staying pregnant at least 39 weeks if a pregnancy is healthy.

According to studies, a growing number of babies are delivered between 37 and 39 weeks. Many of these births occur as a result of planned or scheduled deliveries that are not medically necessary. Nationally, labor induction rates during these weeks have more than doubled from 9.5 percent in 1990 to nearly 23 percent in 2006. In Florida, preterm birth rates increased from 12.8 percent in 2000 to 13.5 percent in 2009. Sarasota is one of seven priority communities leading the statewide community education campaign being launched by FAHSC and Florida March of Dimes in observance of Prematurity Awareness Month. Hospitals in these communities are participating in a statewide quality initiative to reduce elective deliveries.

Non-medically required preterm deliveries pose increased risks to an infant’s life including neonatal hospitalizations, death, respiratory stresses, developmental delays and learning disabilities.

“We are pleased that our coalition and community have been selected to lead statewide education efforts to reduce the risk of babies who are affected by late preterm deliveries and non-medically necessary inductions and c-sections,” said Jennifer Highland, Executive Director, Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County, Inc. “There is an alarming misconception among many that a baby is full term and ready for delivery at 36 weeks…so, unfortunately, we see a lot of mothers seeking to schedule C-sections or induced deliveries when there is no medical reason to do so. This campaign will help Sarasota citizens understand that the last weeks of pregnancy actually do count.”

Sarasota is joined by Miami-Dade County, Broward County, Palm Beach, Fort Myers, Tampa and Santa Rosa County as lead participants in the “Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait” statewide campaign, being implemented by the Florida Association of Healthy Start Coalitions with funding from the March of Dimes.

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. For more information, visit

Founded in 1991, the Florida Association of Healthy Start Coalitions is a statewide network of 32 Healthy Start Coalitions that exchange and disseminate resources and information designed to improve maternal and child health. FAHSC was awarded a March of Dimes Florida Chapter Community grant in March to educate Florida women, families, medical professionals and providers about preterm risks.