Sorority raises awareness of premature births

Published 8:14 pm Saturday, November 22, 2014

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority chapters across the country are planning to hold prematurity awareness events in response to a rise in premature births.

Zeta members in more than 850 communities across the America will conduct prematurity awareness activities in houses of worship and congregations. Worshipers will learn more about the infant health crisis that nearly half a million families cope with each year. This year marks the 12th consecutive year of Zeta’s participation by leading this nationwide grassroots campaign.

Here in Suffolk, participating congregations include Galatians United Church of Christ and Oak Grove Baptist Church, both of which assisted Zeta Phi Beta Sorority with educating local congregations. The March of Dimes led a World Prematurity Day observance on Nov. 17.

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“We want to help the March of Dimes educate the public,” said Dr. Sherie M. Davis, president of the Suffolk chapter. “So we are bringing this vital information to the places where we worship, one of the cores of community life. This issue affects so many families in the city of Suffolk, it just seems like the right thing to do.”

Prematurity affects one out of nine babies born in the U.S. today — a rate that has increased 29 percent since 1981. The numbers are even more alarming for black babies, who have a one-in-six chance of being born too soon.

In addition to the emotional toll, there is a tangible cost to premature birth as well. Average hospital charges in the United States for the most severe cases of prematurity were nearly 60 times higher than the charges for newborn stays without complications. Prematurity is the number one killer of newborns (in the first month of life) and many of the babies who survive leave the hospital with lifelong health conditions or developmental disabilities that will place an additional financial burden on the family.

Despite its prevalence, many families endure the trauma of a premature birth, and all too often infant death, privately and silently. Most people are unaware of the scope of this common and costly health problem.

For more information on Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., visit their website at