Kara Hawk, community director of the Cardinal Division of the March of Dimes, was the guest speaker at the monthly Bell County Chamber of Commerce Soup and Sandwich series.
During the gathering, Hawk discussed the history of the program and where it stands today.
Hawk said the March for Dimes was created over 75 years ago, founded with the help of President Franklin Roosevelt. The organization was originally created to help combat polio in the United States, which ultimately resulted in the creation of the vaccine. There has not been a single outbreak of polio in the U.S. in more than 30 years, she said.
Since Roosevelt’s time, the focus of the organization has shifted to premature births in the nation. Hawk said one in eight babies is born prematurely.
“It affects, of course, the child; it affects their parents and the grandparents…,” said Hawk about premature births. “Many times… somebody has to take time off, somebody actually takes a leave of work. Things kind of stop for that period of time until that child is well enough to continue on with normal activities with the family.”
Each decade, the March of Dimes has tackled a major issue in the U.S. In the 1960s, the organization pushed for newborn screening. Hawk said the organization felt it was important for everyone to have a feel for what was going on with newborn babies. Now the newborn screenings are standard routine.
In the 1970s, there was a push for larger hospitals to have newborn intensive care units.
“Now you will find those and they are able to handle… the unique needs of a premature baby,” said Hawk.
In the 1980s, Surfactant was developed. Hawk said this changed lives because premature babies were able to breathe better because the Surfactant eases their breathing, which help increase oxygen levels.
Folic acid became a big deal in the 1990s, she said, adding it became enriched in a lot of foods. A lot of neural tube defects were solved because of folic acid.
“Today our big thing we are trying to tackle… is prematurity,” said Hawk.
Hawk said they are trying to achieve this goal through educating doctors and the public.
“So many times now, people are scheduling their babies early,” said Hawk. “We are saying wait for the 39 weeks. A lot goes on in those last two weeks.”
Hawk explained there are also programs businesses can take part in to assist pregnant women. Healthy Babies, Healthy Business is a program that has the March of Dimes come into a business and give the business literature and information that would help a business be more work friendly for expectant mothers.
Hawk also announced that the local March of Dimes would take place in May. The theme for this year is “Superheroes.” Those wanting to participate can be a sponsor, create a team or do both.
“I want to have a bunch of teams,” said Hawk. “I would love for there to be 200 people out there. That would be awesome.”
Anthony Cloud can be reach at 606-248-1010, ext. 1125 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN.