The birth of a baby should be a happy, celebrated event. But for families whose newest addition arrives ahead of schedule, it has the potential of being the beginning of a gut-wrenching ordeal. In Alabama, this is unfortunately a more common occurrence than in other parts of the country. Our state’s rate of preterm birth (babies born before 37 weeks) is 12.5% compared to the national rate of 10%. That statistic resulted in our scoring a failing grade on the March of Dimes’ 2019 Report Card.
And the preterm event itself is often just the beginning of a string of problems. Preterm birth and its complications are leading causes of infant mortality, another unfortunately high occurrence in Alabama. The effects of this tragic reality reach further than just the affected families, with the cost of care amounting to an average of $60,000 per baby. In Alabama, that translates to more than $350 million annually in medical and societal costs related to preterm births.
But throughout our community, people and organizations are coming together to change that. The Jefferson County Health Action Partnership and the Bold Goals Coalition, a regional initiative of 200 organizations solving big community problems by aligning partners, resources and agendas, have joined together to fight for the health of every mother and child in our community. We’re utilizing our greatest strength – the power of collaboration and collective impact – to tackle this problem head-on by bringing dozens of organizations together to ensure that mothers and babies across Central Alabama are healthy.
“We formed the Maternal and Child Health Roundtable two years ago to bring together stakeholders in Jefferson County in an effort to have ongoing discussions about the factors contributing to our area’s high infant mortality rate and foster inter-organizational collaboration to help meet the needs of mothers and children in our area,” said Dr. Khalilah Brown, Jefferson County Department of Health’s Child Health Medical Director and the Chair of the Maternal and Child Health Roundtable.
Our coalition is made up of organizations from a variety of sectors, including public health, health care, state and local government, social services, community representatives, and insurance providers. The scope of the issue is broad, which requires many different partners stepping up to address particular issues.
“The health of moms and babies in Alabama must be a priority issue for all of us,” said Britta Cedergren, Alabama March of Dimes Director of Maternal Child Health and Government Affairs. “By working together, as individuals and across the public and private sectors, we can make significant changes that can give every mom the care she deserves and every baby the best possible start.”