The March of Dimes Mission
The mission of the March of Dimes is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality. They carry out this mission through research, community services, education and advocacy to save babies' lives. March of Dimes researchers, volunteers, educators, outreach workers and advocates work together to give all babies a fighting chance against the threats to their health: prematurity, birth defects, low birth-weight. It is important to note that the March of Dimes has been around for a long time; it was originally founded by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis in 1938 in order to combat the Polio epidemic. Here is a brief look at the history behind the March of Dimes organization:
March of Dimes through the years: A brief history of the organization
National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (NFIP) was founded.
NFIP and the U.S. Children’s Bureau agree to coordinate activities and tracking of state services provided to disabled children.
U.S. Congress approves the Poliomyelitis Vaccination Assistance Act (P.L. 84-377) authorizing the appropriation of $30 million as grants-in-aid to
states for purchase of the Salk polio vaccine.
March of Dimes president Basil O’Connor testifies before the U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare in support of the International Health and Medical Research Act,
popularly known as the " Health for Peace" bill. The legislation was enacted as the International Health Research Act of 1961 (P.L. 86-610).
Massachusetts becomes the first state to enact a law mandating that every newborn be screened for phenylketonuria (PKU); March of Dimes grantee Robert Guthrie, MD (1916-1995)
developed a simple blood test to detect PKU, a cause of brain damage and mental retardation. New York passed similar legislation in 1965.
March of Dimes president Basil O’Connor supports the Neighborhood Health Center Act (S. 3835) to establish outpatient clinics and ambulatory care centers in low income communities,
clinics focused particularly on prenatal care.
March of Dimes leads the effort to create the Birth Defects Monitoring Program to be directed by the Center for Disease Control, formerly the Communicable Disease Center.
The surveillance program is designed to provide early warning about patterns in the occurrence of birth defects in the United States in the wake of the thalidomide tragedy.
- January is designated as “March of Dimes Birth Defects Prevention Month” by a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress.
- Authorization of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) (P.L. 92-433), providing federal grants to states to provide nutritious food
- supplements to pregnant women, infants, and children. March of Dimes promoted creation of WIC and continues to advocate for appropriations, amendments, and re-authorizations.
March of Dimes advocates for Congressional approval of the National Genetic Disease Act (Title XI of the Public Health Service Act), which authorizes federal funding for genetic testing
and counseling programs and for education about genetic diseases. The act was renewed in 1979 and replaced by the Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1981 (P.L. 97-35).
- President Ronald Regan hosts reunion of March of Dimes poster children at the White House to commemorate the United Nations Year of the Disabled Person.
- Title V programs of the Social Security Act were renamed the Materal and Child Health Services Block Grant Program (P.L. 97-35) providing federal funding to states for a broad array
- of preventive and specialty health services to women, infants and children.
Congress establishes National Commission to Prevent Infant Mortality. Supported by the March of Dimes, the commission made recommendations to the Administration and
Congress on public policies designed to reduce infant mortality at a time when the U.S. ranked 23rd among industrial nations in its infant mortality rate.
- Medicaid requires “states to phase in coverage for pregnant women and infants with incomes below 133% of the federal poverty level” (P.L. 100-360). March of Dimes supported the
- initiative and also advocated to provide coverage for drug treatment programs for pregnant women.
- Based on the research findings of a March of Dimes grantee, the Foundation supports the Alcoholic Beverage Labeling Act (P.L. 100-690) which requires warning labels on containers
- of alcoholic beverages that “women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launches the Healthy Start Initiative in 15 urban and rural locations with higher than average infant mortality rates.
The March of Dimes provides financial assistance to support Healthy Start’s initial five-year demonstration designed to reduce infant mortality rates by 50% in the target communities.
First introduced in 1988, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (P.L. 103-3) is enacted. The March of Dimes supported the initiative, focusing its advocacy efforts on pregnant women
with complications for whom standard maternity leave is to brief, as well as parents of premature infants or those with birth defects who need leave from work to attend to their newborns.
The U.S. Postal Service issued a postage stamp in honor of Virginia Apgar, MD whose career in medicine culminated with 15 years of service as Medical Director of the March of Dimes.
March of Dimes advocates for enactment of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) (P.L. 105-33). The $40 billion, 10-year program is designed to provide health care
coverage for nearly half of the nation’s 11.6 uninsured children.
- After three years of advocacy led by the March of Dimes and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves fortification of
- enriched grain products with the B vitamin folic acid to reduce the incidence of neural tube defects.
- Culminating six years of advocacy led by the March of Dimes, the Birth Defects Prevention Act (P.L. 105-168) is enacted setting the stage for creation of a nationwide network of
- birth defects monitoring and research programs.
As a result of March of Dimes advocacy, the Children’s Health Act (P.L. 106-310) includes a provision creating the National Center on Birth Defects and Development Disabilities
(the 7th of the centers that make up the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Other March of Dimes supported initiatives in the Children’s Health Act include creation of a new
federal program to support state-based newborn screening, reauthorization of the Healthy Start program, and the National Children’s Study.
March of Dimes advocacy leads to enactment of the Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities Prevention Act (P.L. 108-154), which reauthorizes and expands the Birth Defects Prevention
Act of 1998.
Following two years of March of Dimes led advocacy, the Premature Research Expansion and Education Act for Mothers (PREEMIE) Act (P.L. 109-450) becomes law and sets the stage for
expanding federal support for prematurity related research, education, and services for infants born too soon.
Together with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of Children’s Hospitals, the March of Dimes leads a coalition that secures Congressional approval of an
expanded State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) that includes explicit authority for states to enroll pregnant women in the program. The bill is vetoed twice, leading to
enactment of a temporary extension and funding increase.
- The "Healthy Start Reauthorization Act" (P.L. 110-339) reauthorizes the Healthy Start program through fiscal year 2013, was signed into law by the President on October 3, 2008.
- Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act (P.L. 110-204) signed by President Bush on April 24, 2008, establishes national guidelines on what conditions should be tested and authorizes
- funding for states to expand and improve their newborn screening programs and to provide educational resources for parents and health care professionals.
- Supplemental funding of $150 million for the National Institutes of Health included in the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill (P.L. 110-252) signed by President Bush on
- June 30, 2008.