Tiniest Babies Carry Biggest Costs

The March of Dimes report was compiled by Thomson Reuters, using data on inpatient and outpatient medical costs, prescription drugs for infants from birth through the first year and for mothers, including the delivery, prenatal services in the nine months before and the three months after delivery. It was to be presented Tuesday to business leaders at a luncheon in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the March of Dimes and the National Chamber Foundation, a think-tank affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Dr. Maureen Hack, from the Department of Pediatrics at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland, said that the costs covered in the report are only a small part of the costs associated with preterm delivery.

"This is only the tip of the iceberg," Hack said. "This might be what it is costing the employers for the first year, but these kids have continuing health problems and, later on, they have educational problems."

And prenatal care, Hack noted, might not be enough to prevent preterm births. "It's very complex," she said. "There are a lot of factors that contribute to preterm births."

But to help pregnant women, the March of Dimes suggests that companies:

  • Provide information on preconception, prenatal, postnatal and infant care.
  • Offer a smoke-, drug- and toxin-free working environment.
  • Encourage physical activity.
  • Make available information about healthy pregnancy and childbirth and prenatal care.
  • Allow time off for regular prenatal and infant care.
  • Provide an area for women to pump and store breast milk.
  • Provide comprehensive health insurance.
  • Offer flextime and the option to work from home.
  • Provide job protection beyond the current law, including for adoption and foster care placement.

More information

The March of Dimes has more on premature babies.

SOURCES: Jennifer L. Howse, Ph.D., president, March of Dimes, White Plains, N.Y.; Maureen Hack, M.D., Ch.B., department of pediatrics, Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, Cleveland; March 17, 2009, Healthy Babies, Healthy Business: Cutting Costs and Reducing Premature Birth Rates, March of Dimes Foundation

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