March of Dimes has a long history - The Explorer: Features

March of Dimes has a long history

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Posted: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 4:00 am

In Arizona, 85,000 babies were born last year and the March of Dimes helped each and every one of them through 75 years of research, vaccines and breakthroughs.

Research  

In 1953, James D. Watson, PhD, and Francis Crick, identified the double helix structure of DNA and announced: “We have found the secret of life.” Their pioneering research paved the way for mapping the human genome and developing tests and treatments for dozens of genetic diseases that are saving thousands of lives today. Theirs was one of 13 research studies funded in part by the March of Dimes that would win a Nobel Prize. A tiny drop of blood from a baby’s heel can be tested for 29 diseases, allowing the damaging effects to be prevented. This wonderful breakthrough began in 1963 when March of Dimes researcher Dr. Robert Guthrie developed the test for PKU that allows mental retardation to be prevented through diet.  

Education  

Moms today know that it’s important to take a multivitamin during pregnancy, but that wasn’t always the case. In the 1990s, when research first showed that the b-vitamin folic acid could prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine, the March of Dimes launched a nationwide educational campaign. As more women learned the importance of eating a healthy diet and taking folic acid during pregnancy, these birth defects have declined by one-third, saving thousands of lives.

Vaccines

You probably received a polio vaccine as a child. If you’re a parent, your kids did too. We are so fortunate that there is a reliable way to prevent the disease that once crippled or killed thousands of children a year. We have a vaccine today because President Franklin Roosevelt, who had polio himself, started the organization that discovered it: the March of Dimes. The March of Dimes funded the research for vaccines developed by Jonas Salk, MD, (1955) and Albert Sabin, MD, (1962) that ended the polio epidemic in the United States and most of the world. Today, the March of Dimes encourages parents to make sure their children get all 14 vaccines, including polio, that can keep them safe from serious diseases. “Immunizations are as important today as they were during the height of some of our biggest epidemics,” said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes.

Did you know?

Jonas Salk and the March of Dimes decided to patent the Salk Vaccine.  A few years later, Albert Sabin, did the same thing and donated his oral polio vaccine for the benefit of mankind.  

Forbes estimated that Salk gave up $7 billion in patent royalties and Sabin at least $15 billion.  It’s hard to imagine anyone doing that today.  But thank goodness, they did!  Estimates are that a patent would have raised vaccine costs at least 25 percent, and that could certainly have slowed the use of both vaccines.  

Because Salk, Sabin and the March of Dimes were all willing to put people before profits, more children have gotten the vaccine.  As of 2001, an estimated 575,000 children had received 2 billion doses of the Sabin vaccine alone.  More importantly, worldwide cases of polio have dropped from 400,000 to just 222 last year.  Salk and the March of Dimes together launched one of the greatest public health success stories of all time.   

Breakthroughs/Premature Birth  

If your baby was a preemie, he or she probably received surfactant to help with breathing. This simple treatment has saved over 100,000 lives since it was developed in the 1980s. March of Dimes grantee T. Allen Merritt of the University of California, San Diego Medical Center, developed a way to collect surfactant from amniotic fluid and spray it into the lungs of premature babies to help keep them from collapsing. Today, all hospitals use surfactant therapy to treat respiratory distress syndrome (RDS).


March for Babies

What: March for Babies walk hosted by March of Dimes.

When: Saturday, April 27, starting at 8 a.m. Registration begins at 7 a.m.

Where: Reid Park Zoo, located at 900 S. Randolph Way, DeMeester Outdoor Performance Center in Tucson.

Why: The annual event raises funds to help the March of Dimes continue assisting families of premature babies, funding educational programs and other services managed by the non-profit organization.

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