WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - A Purdue assistant professor is getting involved in March of Dime’s Blanket Change campaign.
The March of Dimes organization is advocating to improve the health of mothers and babies, to prevent birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality. They are currently in their 80th year.
The Blanket Change campaign was rolled out in October 2018. It is focusing on reducing some staggering maternal mortality rates in the United States.
Andrea DeMaria is an assistant professor in Purdue's school of consumer science and public health. She is also one of 20 Gretchen Carlson Advocacy Fellows, helping with gaining support for this cause, advocacy trainings, and special projects.
"We don't want anyone to die here in Indiana especially not our mothers and babies," she said.
Recent numbers show that 700 U.S. women die each year as a result of pregnancy, a number that has doubled over the past 25 years. It also makes the U.S. have the highest maternal death rate in the developed world.
Even closer to home, Indiana is 5th in the nation for worst mortality death rates. However, Indiana lawmakers are paying attention to this issue.
The PREEMIE bill is co-sponsored by Indiana State Senator Todd Young. It’s the only federal law dedicated to preventing and treating preterm birth. It was re-authorized on Tuesday and is headed to the President’s desk for his final signature.
"This is the only federal policy we have here to support funding for research and programming for premature babies and their families,” she said.
DeMaria said she is encouraged by this action for the success of the rest of the Blanket Change campaign.
"These are some huge wins for the March of Dimes but also for maternal and child health,” she said. “I think we will get some answers as to why these deaths are happening in such a developed country.”
She also said she had good conversations with Joe Donnelly’s staffer, however she said Todd Rokita was not receptive to her requests to talk about the campaign.
Headed to senate vote either today or tomorrow is the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act. DeMaria said this act will be essential to answering some major questions about maternal mortality rates.
"The department of Health and Human Services is going to commit to having each state develop a task force to further explore why, for instance, women in Indiana are dying,” she said.
The new task forces would also have to develop strategies and programs to prevent deaths.
Other parts of the campaign according to their website is advocating for are requiring all health plans to cover people with pre-existing conditions and to cover maternity and newborn care. This will ensure new moms don’t have to trade maternal health benefits that they need to afford health coverage.
DeMaria said she is the only academic out of all 20 of the advocacy fellows. Part of her work at Purdue encompasses family planning research. Something she says helps support the mission of the Blanket Change campaign.
"The health of the mother actually happens prior to conception so understanding the health before pregnancy can also help us understand how healthy she will be during pregnancy," she said.
She added some planning, along with healthy life habits, will help lead to a successful pregnancy.
"Reach out to your health care provider. Have a preconception consultation to understand the status of your health and what it would take for you to have a healthy pregnancy," she said.
As these bills come before Congress, DeMaria encourages people to tweet at and email your representatives if you are in support of this change. Learn more about the Blanket Change campaign at the March of Dimes website.