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Families of Over 825 Premature Babies and Other Critically Ill Newborns to Benefit Each Year

Stony Brook, NY, April 27, 2006 Ė Stony Brook University Hospital has been chosen as a site for March of Dimes NICU Family SupportSM, Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, President of the March of Dimes, announced today. This partnership, which provides information and comfort to families with premature and other critically ill infants being cared for in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), is one of only 28 sites in the country and only the 2nd in New York State.

The number of babies born prematurely has increased dramatically over the last three decades, up nearly 31 percent. In 2003, over half a million newborns, or 12.5 percent of all babies born in the U.S., were born too soon. Over 28,000 were right here in New York State, representing 11.4 percent of babies born in the state (National Center for Health Statistics). During an average week in Suffolk County alone, 385 babies are born and 70 will be born preterm or low-birthweight. A significant number of those babies will suffer lifelong health problems as a result.

"Preparing for a new baby is a time of great excitement," said Dr. Howse. "Families donít expect anything to go wrong, but nationally, 1 in 8 newborns wind up in a NICU because they are born too soon and too small. Premature birth is growing to crisis proportions and NICU Family SupportSM aims to make the journey through newborn intensive care smoother and less traumatic for families."

NICU Family SupportSM is an important component of the March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign, a nationwide effort to address the growing problem of premature birth, which is the leading cause of newborn death and a major cause of serious health problems that impacts families. It costs society billions of dollars every year. That is why the March of Dimes is also funding research into the causes of premature birth.

Gerald Quirk, MD
J. Gerald Quirk, M.D.

"Despite advances in the diagnosis and treatment of preterm labor, women not only continue to deliver their babies early, but at an increasing rate," says Dr. Gerald Quirk, Professor and Chairman of Obstetrics and Medical Director of the Regional Perinatal Center at Stony Brook.

Janet Larson, MD
Janet Larson, M.D.

According to Dr. Janet Larson, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Director of Neonatology at Stony Brook University Hospital, more than half the time premature birth happens for unknown causes.

"This national trend in the rate of preterm birth is alarming," says Dr. Larson. "Many of these babies come into the world with serious health problems as a result of their prematurity. Some die and those who survive may suffer lifelong consequences, such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation and blindness."

The Stony Brook University Hospital Regional Perinatal Center serving Suffolk County has a Level III NICU designed to provide comprehensive family-centered care for sick and premature infants.

Incorporating NICU families into every level of the project, March of Dimes NICU Family SupportSM will assist Stony Brook University Hospital staff members in addressing the needs of families throughout the hospitalization, during the transition home, and in the event of a newborn death. NICU Family SupportSM also includes a professional development component to provide hospital NICU staff with support and educational opportunities. The project will be led by a March of Dimes staff person who has professional NICU experience. An advisory committee made up of graduate NICU parents and NICU professionals will be involved in selecting activities and providing direct services to current NICU families. Each NICU family will receive a March of Dimes Parent Care Kit including informational books and materials to chart their babyís milestones.

"Stony Brook University Hospital provides an outstanding setting for the program because of its reputation for excellence and the quality care it provides to babies," said Jeffrey Ravetz, Volunteer Board Chair for the Long Island Division of the March of Dimes.

"Implementing this project provides a wonderful opportunity to work with graduate NICU parents and staff to develop programs specific to the needs of the families treated here," he added.

Nationally, March of Dimes NICU Family SupportSM receives multi-year funding from MedImmune, Inc. and Childrenís Medical Ventures/Respironics. Additional support is provided by Dey, L. P. On a local level, financial support is being provided by Senator John J. Flanagan, Legislator Vivian Viloria-Fisher and Bank of America. Senator Flanagan and Legislator Viloria-Fisher were on hand to offer their support and discuss how important this program is to the families of their constituents.

"Being the parent of a premature infant is very stressful and intimidating, especially for first-time parents," said Dr. Larson during a tour of the NICU at Stony Brook for attendees. "We are excited to have been chosen and welcome NICU Family SupportSM and are looking forward to this collaborative effort because it will help strengthen the family-centered care we already provide."

Stony Brook University Hospital is the only academic medical center on Long Island and the only tertiary care hospital in Suffolk County. With 504 beds and 4,000 employees, SBUH is the largest hospital in the country. The new Heart Center and the Stony Brook University Cancer Center attract patients from throughout the region with cutting edge diagnostic and treatment facilities and compassionate care. Stony Brook has Long Islandís only kidney transplantation center and is the nationís first Pediatric Multiple Sclerosis Center. The hospital is also the regional referral center for trauma, perinatal and neonatal intensive care, burns, bone marrow and stem cell transplantation, cystic fibrosis, pediatric/adult AIDS, and is home to the Cody Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities.

The March of Dimes is a national voluntary health agency whose mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. Founded in 1938, the March of Dimes funds programs of research, community services, education and advocacy to save babies and in 2003 launched a campaign to address the increasing rate of preterm birth. For more information, visit the March of Dimes Web site at marchofdimes.com or its Spanish Web site at nacersano.org or call the local office at (516) 496-2100.

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