March of Dimes: 1938-present day - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

March of Dimes: 1938-present day

It has been 75 years since President Franklin Roosevelt founded the March of Dimes. His efforts led to a cure for polio, an ailment he personally had, and medical breakthroughs that could not have been imagined in 1938. We look at the March of Dimes' impact today.

The joys and excitement of pregnancy can unfortunately be dimmed by unexpected problems: Pre-term labor, birth defects and infant mortality. March of Dimes was created to change that in 1938, explains Women & Children's Hospital Assistant CEO Tom Sledge, "It was really a heart-felt thing for President Roosevelt because he had polio as a child and he really wanted to put the research behind that."

A polio cure was found in 1955 through the development for a vaccine. That same disease prevention carries through today with March of Dimes' vaccination efforts and a focus on prenatal care.

"Prenatal care has been the main thing because if you take care of it in the front, all of the resulting problems don't typically come up," Sledge said.

But we are not there yet. Louisiana has earned an "F" on the most recent March of Dimes pre-term birth report card, something neonatal nurse practitioner Sandra Priest sees the effects of in the hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. 

"Respiratory distress is our number one admission diagnosis," she said.

Premature births are one of the main reasons newborns can end up in the NICU. That is why all Louisiana birthing hospitals have teamed up with the March of Dimes to help eliminate elective c-sections and inductions.

"We will not be having scheduled c-sections or inductions before 39 weeks gestation unless there are extenuating circumstances," Priest said.

March of Dimes' mission to get moms-to-be to the 39-week mark gives babies the best chance to survive and thrive - and those passionate about the cause are hoping it will change the rate of one in seven Louisiana babies being born too early.

The March of Dimes, March for Babies Walk can get you motivated for the cause. It is coming up Saturday, April 20 at Prien Lake Park in Lake Charles with a local goal of raising $78,000. Click here to register for the event.

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