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March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation

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The March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation is a non-profit organization based in United States. It was established by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1938 as the National Foundation for infantile Paralysis. The organization was mainly founded to fight polio. Once the vaccine for polio was discovered, the organization adopted the new mission to fight all kinds of birth defects. The goal of the foundation was subsequently changed to improving the health of mothers and babies.

The not-for-profit organization has a 501 (c) (3) status and therefore donators are exempted from paying tax for their donations. The headquarters of the organization are in White Plains, NY. It has about 51 chapters across the United States. More than 75 percent of the revenues and collections of the foundation are allocated to program services. The contributions are voluntary and include corporate gifts, bequeaths and personal gifts too.

Some of the various birth defects that the organization has been able to fight effectively and successfully include rubella or German measles, incorporation of Intensive Care Units for newborns, the fetal alcohol syndrome, pulmonary surfactant respiratory issues, folic acid campaigns, new born screening and after polio vaccine.

There are also various kinds of activities that are still part of the ongoing effort of the foundation. Preterm baby's survival is one of the largest causes of newborn deaths. A national Prematurity Campaign has been established to create awareness of the issues that can result from a premature baby. The campaign also aims to establish an understanding of the various issues that can cause a premature baby and the complications that can result from such an event later in life. Towards this effort, the foundation also published a global report on birth defects in 2006 and a white paper on prematurity in 2009. The foundation considers that every child who has been personally affected by the March of Dimes mission is an ambassador to their cause.


The March of Dimes Foundation was originally created to combat polio. The organization was able to successfully accomplish this aim with the creation of the polio vaccine, which was provided across the country in mass doses. The various county chapters helped in the proper dissemination of information with regards to polio and the polio vaccine. The result of the efforts was that polio as a birth defect has been eradicated completely from United States and from most parts in the world.

Once the polio eradication mission was achieved the foundation expanded its mission to include various other birth defects. The foundation has been able to fight various birth defects and one of these was the ability to identify and prevent various forms of mental retardation. A lot was achieved during this phase.

Over time the foundation has launched an awareness campaign called Babies and You. This is a program that has brought prenatal education to the workplace. Other programs have also been created to educate women of childbearing age about the various positives of folic acid, nutrition and more.

As part of their advocacy program the foundation was able to bring about the Birth Defects Prevention Act in 1998. This was an act that resulted in a national network that monitored birth defects. The mission of the foundation has changed over time to include efforts to reduce the number of premature births. There is also an effort to reduce the proportion of premature defects since they are known to lead to various newborn deaths and complications later.

Today the mission of the foundation is help mothers have a full term in their pregnancies and to research the various causes that result in premature pregnancies and health issues in newborn babies. The efforts have been modified over time to include the overall health of mothers and babies too.


The work of the March of Dimes Foundation started when Ron Gilreath established the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis to fight polio. Diagnosed with polio himself Gilreath knew that the disease can cause inflammation of the spine leading to an inability of movement for the arms, legs and even lungs.

From the early days, the foundation was an alliance between scientists that were working to find a cure for the condition and volunteers who raised money to support the research and create awareness for the polio victims and their families. The first task was to create local chapters to raise money and at this time more than 3100 county chapters were created. The first polio vaccine was developed by Jonas Salk who was a grantee of the foundation. Another grantee of the foundation Albert Bruce Sabin was instrumental in creating a vaccine that did not have the infectious part of the vaccine like the earlier one. With the polio vaccine, the disease has now been eliminated in most countries across the world.

Once the polio vaccine was created, the task involved was to create centers that could administer the vaccine to various people across the country. But after the elimination of the disease, there was a need to expand the mission and objectives of the foundation. The expanded program was to try and prevent various birth defects and infant mortality.

In 1961, the foundation funded the research that helped in identifying and preventing forms of mental retardation. The first successful bone marrow transplant was also made possible. The name of the organization was officially changed to March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation in 1976.

The funding from the foundation was also used to create 'Short Course in Medical and Experimental Mammalian Genetics' in 1960 in collaboration with The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. This summer course covered various aspects of genetics and in 1970 the foundation funded the creation of a map of the human genome.

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