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    The Thanksgiving season is not only a time to celebrate all the blessings we receive in life, but to acknowledge those hardships that exist in the world and the steps we might take to overcome them. One of these plights is the high rate of premature births across the globe: an estimated 13 million infants are born prematurely every year, and one million of these babies die as a result of their preterm birth. These numbers, gathered by the March of Dimes in October of 2009, have inspired that organization to host the first ever World Prematurity Day on November 17, 2011.

    Kentucky will be one of the states participating in this vital event, employing a variety of campaigns to raise awareness for the prevalence of prematurity in the Commonwealth. The Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait symposium, held on November 17 at the Hilton Suites Lexington Green Hotel in Lexington, Kentucky, will educate attendees about the problems associated with preterm birth and the many possible causes of it. As women and prenatal providers will discover, many strategies can be employed to prevent prematurity, including early prenatal care, the termination of smoking, and the avoidance of unnecessary early deliveries before 39 weeks of pregnancy. The goal of the program is to decrease, through education, the singleton preterm birth rate by 15 percent over the course of the next five years. Based on the substantial drop in preterm births in Kentucky since 2006 (13.6 percent), and the elevation of Kentucky's grade on the 2011 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card from "F" to "D," this is a feasible aim that can be reached through cooperation and understanding.

    In Louisville, of course, awareness events will remain ongoing throughout the month. Supporters of the cause will be wearing the March of Dimes signature color purple, particularly on November 17, and the LG&E building on West Main Street will be lit with purple lights for the entirety of November. These small but worthwhile efforts contribute to much larger, much needed goals: to save the US more than $26 billion annually in newborn healthcare costs, to eliminate this leading cause of newborn deaths, and to ensure that all infants begin life in the healthiest, happiest way possible.

    For more information and resources related to this cause, visit the March of Dimes website (also in Spanish), their Facebook page, or their Twitter feed.

    ​Photo courtesy of March of Dimes.

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    Karen Ellestad's picture

    About Karen Ellestad

    When I was seven and my brother was eight, we both wrote to 'Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?' for a free t-shirt. Two weeks later his arrived in the mail, signed by Carmen Sandiego herself, accompanied by an autographed picture of the cast, an official membership to the 'Gumshoe Club,' and a Rockapella casette tape. I got a postcard.

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