Montana currently holds a grade C in preterm birth rate, and is ranked 29th in the nation. According to the March of Dimes, Montana's current preterm birth rate is 9.3%, and the annual cost is estimated to be $71 million for the state. However, research has shown at least 50% of the cost ($35 million) could be saved and potential preterm births prevented with proper prenatal education, vitamin D supplementation and screening.
"NOW's mission is to empower people to lead healthier lives," said Jim Emme, NOW's CEO. "We are honored to partner with GrassrootsHealth to provide vitamin D to these pregnant women in an effort to have a positive impact on their pregnancies as well as the future health of their children."
Specifically, lead researcher for the program, Carol Wagner, MD, who has been running a pilot program out of the Medical University of South Carolina for the past two years (where she is also a professor in the department of Pediatrics), said early meta-analysis compared to past randomized control trial data with NHANES data revealed women who achieve a serum level of 40 ng/ml or above during pregnancy have a 59% lower risk of preterm birth when compared to women with serum levels less than 20 ng/ml. A full preliminary report on the South Carolina results should be out later this year. In addition, recent research published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology further linked vitamin D deficiency to preterm birth.
At WMC, NOW will provide $60,000 in Vitamin D-3 5,000 IU Chewables. Participants who qualify for the program will receive the supplements (also provided by Carlson Labs), as well as educational materials, access to an online forum, and a local support contact. Further blood tests will measure vitamin D serum levels at 24 weeks and at 36 weeks gestation. Doctors and nurses at WMC will also receive continuing medical education activities on the importance of vitamin D testing and supplementation in pregnant women.
"It's our expectation that results of Protect Our Children NOW! will dovetail nicely with the preliminary results in South Carolina, further showcasing the tremendous impact vitamin D supplementation can have on improved birth outcomes," said Carole Baggerly, founder and director of GrassrootsHealth. "We couldn't have launched this program without the generous support of our partners like NOW, and it's our hope that we can prompt other institutions across the country to follow suit."