Posts Tagged ‘ Dana Points ’

World Prematurity Day in the NICU

Monday, November 19th, 2012

This post is written by Dana Points, editor in chief of Parents.

Watching a nurse change what must surely be the world’s smallest diaper will do more to motivate you to want to prevent prematurity than reading troubling statistics about early birth. Nevertheless, I’ll share some: Worldwide, 15 million babies are born preterm each year. 1.1 million die and many others are disabled. The rate of preterm birth in the U.S. has dropped over the last five years, but we still have the highest rate of any industrialized country.

I saw the diaper change–and incubator after incubator holding the tiniest babies, often attached to ventilators and monitors–during a visit to the neonatal intensive care unit at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, which is affiliated with Stanford University School of Medicine. There, the March of Dimes has funded a unique research center where scientists from across a wide array of specialties are examining the causes of prematurity in hopes of finding cures. (I had the opportunity to make the visit because I am a March of Dimes trustee.)

Researchers are looking at the role microorganisms that live in our digestive tract, on our skin and elsewhere in the body play in prematurity; at the connections between genes and the environment; and at the way data can be used to examine why some hospitals have higher rates of early births and what doctors can do to bring down the numbers. Here at Parents we have “bagel Wednesdays” when our staff shares breakfast and conversation. But at the MOD’s Prematurity Research Center they have “preterm Wednesdays” where scientists share findings and ideas. Pretty humbling to think about the difference.

The scientists and the babies are heroic here, but so are the California moms-to-be and moms who are participating in the center’s research by giving weekly samples scraped from their gums and skin, as well as urine and blood samples, which scientists are using to help identify possible causes of prematurity. The lab’s giant freezers are crowded with 10,000 samples. The vials arrive in thermal lunch bags like the kind my kids use. These are bright red so as not to be confused with…lunch (photo to the right).

The goal of the Prematurity Research Center is essentially to put the NICU out of business, and the doctors who spend their days treating these babies say their top priority is prevention. Until that goal is achieved, we’ll keep World Prematurity Day on the calendar as a reminder so the tiniest babies won’t be forgotten.

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Important Safety Lessons From “Safe Kids Day”

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Dana Points

This post is written by Dana Points, editor in chief of Parents

Q: Who is responsible for our kids’ safety?
A: We all are!

A recent trip to “Safe Kids Day” in Washington, D.C., opened my eyes to how persistent some children’s safety problems are. As the editor in chief of Parents and a board member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a nonprofit devoted to preventing unintentional injury, I thought I knew a thing or three about children’s safety, but I learned a few new things visiting the exhibits and talking to the educators at this Capitol-Hill event designed to raise awareness among members of Congress and their staff:

1. More child pedestrians are injured in September than in any other month–and injuries to older kids are on the rise, probably because they are distracted by their mobile devices.

2. If your smoke alarm is wired into your electrical system or home alarm system, you may not be fretting about changing the batteries, but you should replace the device every 10 years (which means our family is overdue!)

3. Despite warnings to parents, kids continue to swallow button batteries, which can cause devastating internal injury. A bill introduced earlier this summer would call on the Consumer Product Safety Commission to make battery compartments more child-resistant, among other things.

Fortunately, we have some friends watching out for us in D.C.–but they can’t work magic overnight. Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky stopped by Safe Kids Day to check out the safe sleep display. An infant and toddler safety act she introduced back in 2001 (!) was part of an effort that resulted in the ban on drop-side cribs that took effect last year. And Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a mother of two young boys, has her own initiatives under way, with a focus on safe food, safe water, and safe toys. “I look at issues in a children-first way,” she says. But she can’t be the only one and that’s where we come in. “Women need to get off the sidelines and understand their voice needs to be heard,” Gillibrand told me. After a half-hour of wide-ranging discussion of children’s safety with Safe Kids President and CEO Kate Carr and me, her parting words were a warning: “If most women realized their legislators could care less about the issues we have discussed today they’d be amazed.” That’s why it’s up to all of us to take action on a personal level.

For more on what you can do at home and in your community to ensure a safer world for our kids, visit Safe Kids Worldwide.

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