Partnerships between the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, nonprofit advocacy groups and Louisiana hospitals reduced the number of days babies born in Louisiana have spent in Neonatal Intensive Care units by 20,000, according to preliminary data from LDH's Birth Outcomes Initiative.

As part of its work to improve birth outcomes in Louisiana, LDH is recognizing its partners for their commitment to improving the health of mothers and babies in the state through outreach and informational programs. LDH's commitment to the cause is two-fold - its programs push for healthier births and its employees fundraise for the March of Dimes in Louisiana.

Currently, LDH's Birth Outcomes Initiative is monitoring how and why many deliveries occur before 39 weeks of pregnancy.   BOI partnered with the March of Dimes and Louisiana Hospital Association to create the 39 Week Initiative.  Through this initiative, 58 hospitals in Louisiana established policies to end the practice of elective, non-medically indicated deliveries prior to 39 weeks gestation. 

Babies' organs, including the brain and lungs, continue to develop during the last few weeks of gestation.  Babies who are born prematurely have a greater chance of newborn health complications, such as breathing problems, and often must spend time in the NICU receiving costly specialized care.  Preliminary BOI data shows that from 2010, when the initiative began, to 2012, babies born in Louisiana have spent 20,000 fewer days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. 

"We are excited to see what BOI's preliminary data is revealing about preterm births," said Medicaid Medical Director Dr. Rebekah Gee, who is also a licensed OB/GYN.  "Ultimately, 20,000 fewer days spent in the NICU means babies are going home with their parents sooner after birth.  Louisiana still has the highest Caesarean section rate in the country, but with innovative ways of collecting data and educating the public, the BOI team looks forward to increasing the State's number of vaginal births."

"Maternal and child health is extremely important to improving the public's health.  Through the Birth Outcomes Initiative and the Maternal and Child Health program, we are reaching countless moms and babies and making their health and wellness the top priority," said Assistant Secretary for Public Health J.T. Lane.  "I am very proud that LDH employees have invested in and shown so much support for the March of Dimes and future generations of Louisianians." 

LDH partnered with March of Dimes to fundraise for the organization's 2013 March for Babies.   Through fundraising efforts coordinated by LDH employees, the agency raised more than $20,000 for this year's event.  The Louisiana March of Dimes chapter will keep 70 percent of all funds raised for community outreach and educational programs in Louisiana.

March for Babies in Baton Rouge will take place at the AZ Young Park-Downtown on Saturday, April 27 at 9:15 a.m., with registration beginning at 7:30 a.m.  For women who are pregnant or thinking about pregnancy, March of Dimes encourages them to get active and participate in the March for Babies.  Regular physical activity prior to pregnancy reduces the risk of stroke, heart disease and high blood pressure, leading to a healthier pregnancy and baby.

"We are thankful for the support of the Department of Health and its efforts to address the state's poor birth outcomes.  This partnership is helping reshape maternal and child health in our state through LDH's 39 Week Initiative and our Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait campaign," said Louisiana March of Dimes State Director Frankie Robertson. "We are very excited about our March for Babies events across the state on Saturday and look to this as an opportunity for communities to get physically active, while promoting a great cause.  It's a fun activity for families and friends to participate in together as they make strides towards owning their health."

"I am thrilled by the preliminary results of our Birth Outcomes Initiative, as well as the March of Dimes' work in our state.  It is so important for women to be educated and informed about prenatal care and the risks involved with deliveries prior to 39 weeks," said LDH Interim Secretary Kathy Kliebert.  "I am proud to see how much the LDH team is giving back to March of Dimes through fundraising and participating in the March for Babies.  I encourage all people across Louisiana to get involved with their local March for Babies and support mothers and children across our State."

For more information on the Louisiana March of Dimes chapter and March for Babies across the state please visit  To learn more about LDH's Birth Outcomes Initiative please visit