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Maternal Child Outreach program seeks to reduce prematurity, promotes healthy pregnancies

November 15, 2012

TACOMA, WA - Each year nearly 500,000 babies are born prematurely in the nation, and 5,800 die from complications of prematurity. It is the number one killer of newborns, according to the March of Dimes.

In Pierce County, the prematurity rate for 2006-2008 was 10.8 percent compared to 10.5 percent for Washington State. In 2009, the State rate was 10.3 percent. The March of Dimes goal is 9.6 percent. The country’s premature birth rate has risen by 36 percent over the last 25 years.

To call attention to the problem of premature birth, the March of Dimes is promoting World Prematurity Day on Nov. 17.

“Babies born just a few weeks early are at risk of severe health problems and lifelong disabilities,” said Ashley Summers, state director for March of Dimes. “In addition to the great toll it takes on individual families, premature birth costs society more than $26 billion a year. Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department links women to valuable resources that help women have healthier births,” said Summers.

Through the Department’s Maternal Child Outreach program, pregnant women in Pierce County can improve their prospects of carrying babies to full term.

“We help connect pregnant women to the resources they need to make sure they have healthy pregnancies and births,” said Beth Wilson, Maternal Child Health program coordinator and chair of the Perinatal Collaborative of Pierce County. “Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department provides maternal child health services to all women in Pierce County, but we are particularly concerned with women who have risks for prematurity and low birth weight.”

The Maternal Child Outreach program provides women access to prenatal care, links pregnant women to home visiting nurses, and coordinates access to important health and maternity support services such as Medicaid, prenatal medical care, WIC, mental health and substance abuse services, and provides SIDS prevention education.

Wilson provides these guidelines to help women improve their own health and increase the healthy birth prospects for their babies:

  • Get prenatal medical care from the first months of pregnancy. "If you don’t have insurance for medical care, the Health Department can assist you.

  • Be free from Tobacco. If you are smoking, it is most important to quit. For help, call the Washington State Quitline for support: 1-800-QUIT-NOW

  • Get help from a home visiting nurse if you need it. Contact the Health Department at (253) 798-6403 or to request maternity support services.

For additional resources for a healthy pregnancy, visit For more information or to get connected with services, please call our Maternal Child Outreach Team at (253) 798-6403 or email

Edie Jeffers, Communications Manager, (253) 798-2853,
Beth Wilson, Maternal Child Health Program Coordinator, (253) 798-2949,

About Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department: Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s mission is to safeguard and enhance the health of the communities of Pierce County. As part of its mission, the Health Department tackles known and emerging health risks through policy, programs and treatment in order to protect public health. Learn more at

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