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First Baby Of 2013 Has Great Expectations

March of Dimes Celebrates 75 Years of Healthy Births

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., Dec. 27, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Babies born in 2013 have a better chance for a long and healthy life than earlier generations, thanks to 75 years of health advances, made possible in part by the March of Dimes. 

The March of Dimes says babies born next year will live longer and are less likely to have a birth defect than those born 75 years ago.  They are also much less likely to die from an infectious disease thanks to widespread use of vaccinations to prevent polio, rubella, measles and several other infections.  

The March of Dimes was founded in January 1938 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  A polio sufferer himself, FDR founded the organization to "lead, direct and unify" the fight against polio.  The March of Dimes funded the development of the Salk vaccine which was tested in 1954 and licensed a year later, as well as the Sabin vaccine which became available in 1962.  Nearly all babies born today still receive this lifesaving injection.  More information about March of Dimes history can be found at marchofdimes.com/75. 

"The birth of a baby is a special moment for every family. Babies born today and in future generations will live longer and healthier lives, in part, because of 75 years of March of Dimes commitment to the health of mothers and babies," said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes.  "Today, we are hard at work to prevent premature birth, which affects nearly a half million babies every year, so that one day all babies will get a healthy start in life."

Each of the four million babies born in the United States this and every year benefits from March of Dimes research, education and work to give all babies a healthier start in life. Babies born in 2013 can expect to live about 78 years, 14 years longer than an infant born in 1938, when the life expectancy was only 64.  They are also almost 8 times less likely to die in infancy. 

Babies born next year also will be screened for 31 genetic, metabolic, hormonal and/or functional conditions, including PKU (phenylketonuria) within the first hours of birth. March of Dimes grantee Dr. Robert Guthrie developed the mass PKU test, the first of many newborn screening tests infants now receive, and allowed for prevention of intellectual disabilities through diet. Today, every baby born in every state in the U.S. receives screening for dozens of conditions that could cause catastrophic health problems or death if not detected and then treated promptly at birth.

Many serious birth defects have declined over these 75 years. For example, neural tube defects or NTDs (birth defects of the brain and spine) have decreased by nearly one-third since 1998, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration mandated that grain foods such as bread and pasta be fortified with folic acid.

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