Prevention, intervention and treatment expertise combine

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT)-A meeting is taking place over the next couple of days on a variety of topics affecting the health of Northeast Arkansas residents.

"Healthy Lifestyles and Mindsets" is taking place all day at the Regions Bank in Jonesboro.

The meetings cover a wide range of topics including alcoholism, prescription drug use and tobacco control.

Another of the many subjects being discussed is premature births.

Division Director for the Northeast Arkansas March of Dimes, Melissa Gann, says education is key to lowering the number of premature births.

"I'm talking to people about how to prevent premature births and birth defects, " Gann said. "Also, anything that might cause a pregnancy outcome to be poor or cause the death of a baby."

Gann says the problem of premature births is closer to home than people realize.

"In Arkansas one out of every seven babies is born prematurely. In an average week, six babies die. And prematurity, right now, is the number one cause of death in newborns," she said.  "So, it really is a big problem right here in our community and across Arkansas. It's even a problem across the nation."

Gann says proper diet, exercise, good prenatal care and planning for a baby before you get pregnant are key steps to having healthy, full term babies.

Gann also says mothers carrying their baby the full 39 weeks is best.

"A lot of women are going for early inductions or C-sections when it's not medically necessary, " Gann said. "Whether it's for convenience or your doctor's going to be out of town, those last weeks are essential for the baby's brain development. So, a full 39 weeks of pregnancy is essential for healthy babies."

Gann says babies born too early may have more health problems at birth and later in life than babies born full term.

Other important organs, like the child's lungs and liver need this extra time to develop.

The baby is also less likely to have vision and hearing problems after birth if it has gone to full term.

A baby born too early often can't suck and swallow or stay awake long enough to eat after it's born.

Gann says the March of Dimes is working tirelessly to find answers to the questions surrounding premature births.

"The March of Dimes is really doing a lot of groundbreaking research to find out why this happens in the cases where we don't know the cause and what we can do to prevent it," she says.

Gann hopes everyone will stop and think about all the premature births taking place in the country and in Arkansas.

Thursday, November 17, is worldwide "Premature Awareness Day."

"Think about the half a million babies in this country that are born preterm," Gann says.  "And help get the word out about healthy babies."

The March of Dimes will be holding a "Jail n Bail" event that day at Chili's in Jonesboro.

For additional information about March of Dimes, log onto this website or contact the Northeast Arkansas March of Dimes office at (870) 932-0300.

The "Healthy Lifestyles and Mindsets" Conference will continue through Tuesday, November 15, at Regions Bank.

It will move to Mid-South Health Systems in Paragould on Wednesday, November 16.

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