NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – Each year, a half million babies in the U.S. are born premature.

WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond On The Story

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Dr. Alan Fleischman, medical director at the March of Dimes, said premature babies have serious consequences early on and then long-term disability.

However, he says the prematurity rate has decreased as much as five percent in the last several years.

“Much of that is because of efforts of the March of Dimes and others to decrease the number of babies born too soon because of convenience,” he told WCBS 880 reporter Marla Diamond.

Fleischman says that premature birth exacts a huge emotional, physical, and financial toll on families.

“There are 13 million premature babies born around the world and a million of them die every year,” he said.

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The March of Dimes is urging the government to renew the federal PREEMIE Act, which would expand research into the causes and prevention of prematurity.

“It’s not just prenatal care. It’s preconception care as well,” he said.

Smoking, diabetes, and obesity are all seen as major risk factors for premature birth.

Parent groups worldwide will use social media to educate the public today – World Prematurity Day.

In addition, the Empire State Building will be lit tonight in purple to symbolize hope for a healthy start for more babies.

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