Every year approximately 380,000 babies are born prematurely in the United States.

Every year approximately 380,000 babies are born prematurely in the United States. In fact, the most common causes of neonatal death are premature birth, low birth weight and birth defects. Geisinger supports the March of Dimes® Foundation in its fight to understand and help eradicate the causes of prematurity and help families through this serious challenge.

Kerri DiDario is the executive director of market development for March of Dimes of Northeast Pennsylvania. The mother of a daughter who was born 7 weeks prematurely, she says that the organization considers Geisinger to be “a great partner in every capacity.” Her arm of the organization covers 19 counties throughout Pennsylvania, and she points out that Geisinger was the first hospital in the state to establish a full-time neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) family support liaison at Geisinger Janet Weis Children’s Hospital. Geisinger also has a part-time NICU family support liaison at Geisinger Wyoming Valley (GWV).

According to Ms. DiDario, the liaisons — Phoebe Beckley at Geisinger Janet Weis Children’s Hospital and Cathy Devaney at GWV — do “whatever a family needs during their child’s time in the NICU.” She says they explain issues, give the parents a voice in the NICU, help them understand the child’s medical care and sometimes “just be there” when families need a little extra support. At Geisinger Janet Weis Children’s Hospital, there is even a family advisory council that allows parents to give input on their NICU experience to constantly improve the quality of care and communication.

Geisinger employees also make up a committee which, working with March of Dimes staff, plans events like the March for Babies each year, organizing the logistics, entertainment, advertising, donations, family activities and more. Geisinger also hosts an annual reunion, organized and funded by the March of Dimes for NICU babies, where the families can reconnect with their caregivers. Though the majority of funds raised go to research on the cause of premature birth and other birth complications, they also help provide educational materials for families, as well as allow activities such as room decorating and holiday photos of hospitalized children.

According to James Cook, MD, a neonatologist in the Danville NICU, the work done by the March of Dimes is helping more every year. “The research to identify why babies are born early, why some survive and others don’t, why some populations are seemingly more susceptible to prematurity and how to give all future babies the best chance of being born full-term is invaluable,” he says.