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TODAY news for Thursday, December 14, 2006

Loma Linda University Children's Hospital news

LLUCH, March of Dimes, Assemblyman Bill Emmerson shed light on the issue of premature births in the Inland Empire

Assemblyman Bill Emmerson speaks at LLUCH on the growing problem of premature births in the Inland Empire and how it will take a community effort to find a solution.
Assemblyman Bill Emmerson speaks at LLUCH on the growing problem of premature births in the Inland Empire and how it will take a community effort to find a solution.
On November 28, elected officials and community leaders of the Inland Empire saw first-hand how premature birth affects a newborn as they toured the regional tertiary neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and new mother-baby unit at Children’s Hospital. The NICU tour was presented by the March of Dimes Inland Empire division, LLU Children’s Hospital, and Assemblyman Bill Emmerson in an effort to bring attention to the growing crisis of premature birth.

Nationwide, nearly half a million babies are born prematurely every year representing a 30 percent increase since 1983. In California, one in ten babies (52,800 babies annually) are born premature. In half those cases the cause is unknown. In 2004 and 2005, more than 7,000 babies (or 11 percent of live births) were born premature in San Bernardino County alone. 

Premature birth is now the number one cause of newborn death and a major cause of serious health problems. The national total for hospital charges for premature and low birth weight babies were estimated at $18.1 billion by the March of Dimes in 2003. That figure is almost half the total costs for all births in the same year.

Many of these “preemies” suffer lifelong disabilities, which add even more to health and education costs—not to mention the pain and suffering these babies and their families experience.

The March of Dimes and  Children’s Hospital are taking the lead in the Inland Empire to address issues around the capacity to care for an increasing number of babies being born too soon, and to better serve our families in this area. 

“An infant born more than three weeks before the due date is considered premature,” says Richard Peverini, MD, medical director of the Children’s Hospital NICU. “We see ourselves at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital as a resource for the community. On a yearly basis, we take care of 1,100 babies, of which 43 percent are preemies.”

“We don’t know what the future brings,” says Jeff Mason, MD, with the March of Dimes. “But with the care at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital and with the Lord’s help, we know they can be a source of happiness to the lives around them. Afterall, babies are our future.”

March of Dimes is working to educate elected officials about this crisis by showing them the extraordinary and complex efforts involved in saving the lives of these tiny babies. The organization is working to raise awareness and funds to improve the health of babies by supporting local programs that offer hope and help to families with a baby in intensive care.

“We all have a stake in confronting premature birth,” said Dani Montague, state director, March of Dimes California Chapter in a written statement before the event. “It’s vital that opinion and policy-makers join together to do all we can to help those born too soon and too small, and at the same time fight to find the causes of premature birth.”

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 premature birth. For more information, visit the March of Dimes website at <www.marchofdimes.com> or one can go to its Spanish website at <nacersano.org>.

LLU Children’s Hospital is the only level I trauma center for a four county area (Inyo, Mono, Riverside, and San Bernardino) representing 25 percent of the geographic area of California, and serving 10 percent of the state’s population. Children’s Hospital has 256 beds, 84 of which serve as the regional tertiary neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

By Preston Clarke Smith

TODAY news for Thursday, December 14, 2006