World Prematurity Day brings awareness of Fresno County epidemic

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World Prematurity Day brings awareness of Fresno County epidemic

Several community landmarks will be illuminated purple on Saturday, Nov. 17, in honor of World Prematurity Day.

Local landmarks taking part include the Larry Shehadey Tower at the Save Mart Center at Fresno State, Univision Studios and the Cultural Arts District Park in downtown Fresno. The latter will serve as the backdrop of the Fresno County fourth annual World Prematurity Day event from 4 to 7 p.m. at the corner of Fulton and Calaveras streets.

Families affected by preterm birth and the general public are encouraged to attend the free event, which brings to light that Fresno County is home to some of the highest rates of preterm birth in California.

Aliana Barrientez, age 3, is just one of the faces that will be there. She was born at 28 weeks, weighing just 1 pound, 10 ounces. Today, Aliana is healthy, happy and thriving.

Her story is one of many to emerge from the work of the Fresno County Preterm Birth Initiative — a 10-year collective impact initiative formed in 2015 to reduce premature births in Fresno County.

Each year on Nov. 17, World Prematurity Day is recognized around the globe. Locally, the event is the result of a collaborative partnership between the Fresno County Preterm Birth Initiative, the Fresno County Department of Public Health, Fresno State, Every Neighborhood Partnership, CalViva, Anthem, the Black Infant Health program, the Fresno County Economic Opportunity Commission, WIC, Fresno Street Saints, Fresno Police Department, Glow! Group Prenatal, March of Dimes, Community Regional Medical Center and the community.

In the latest March of Dimes 2018 Premature Birth Report Card, data showed Fresno County’s rate of preterm births decreased from 10.1 percent in the previous year to 9.2 percent. Although Fresno County no longer has the highest overall preterm birth rate in California, the disparities in preterm birth rates for women of color persists.

“There continues to be a disparity among major ethnic groups when it comes to rates of preterm birth,” said Rose Mary Rahn, maternal child and adolescent health director for the Fresno County Department of Public Health and steering committee member of the Fresno County Preterm Birth Initiative. “African Americans are impacted significantly with a preterm birth rate of 13.3 percent. Continued community awareness, education and perinatal initiatives are needed to improve perinatal services and birth outcomes for all newborns in Fresno County.”

To address these disparities and to reduce preterm births in Fresno County, the Fresno County Preterm Birth Initiative is focusing on three areas that address social determinates of health: health and education before pregnancy, care and support during pregnancy and coordination of care. The initiative is implementing recommendations of the Parent Council Advisory Committee, made up of African American leaders in West Fresno, to help address the high rates of African American preterm births and infant mortality in Fresno County.

A rally and presentation will kick off the event, followed by food demonstrations and testimonials from parents who have experienced premature birth. Resource booths, child enrichment exercises, live music and a car show will round out the list of activities. There will also be free food and raffle prizes for those in attendance.

For more information about the event, or to learn more about the Fresno County Preterm Birth Initiative, contact Olga Nuñez, at 559.228.2161 or nunezo@csufresno.edu.

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