This year's DanceBlue event raised nearly $2 million in support of pediatric cancer, with part of those funds going toward the new DanceBlue Clinic.

DanceBlue raises nearly $1.8 million for pediatric cancer patients

Nearly 1,000 UK students spent 24 hours on their feet this weekend, dancing as part of the UK DanceBlue Marathon. It was the culmination and celebration of a yearlong fundraising effort that raised almost $1.8 million for pediatric cancer patients and their families.

DanceBlue the largest student-run philanthropy organization at UK  celebrates its yearly fundraising efforts at the DanceBlue Marathon, an all-day, no-sitting, no-sleeping event that honors those affected by childhood cancer. This year’s celebration took place on Feb. 25 and 26 and included a family talent show featuring children from the clinic and an emotional memorial hour to remember those who lost their battle with cancer.

Since it began in 2006, DanceBlue has raised more than $11.5 million for the Golden Matrix Fund and the DanceBlue Kentucky Children’s Hospital Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic, which is named in honor of the group. DanceBlue’s fundraising efforts over the last several years helped support the renovation of the new DanceBlue Clinic, which opened in early February.

“For the last 365 days, students at the University of Kentucky have been on a mission to fight pediatric cancer,” said Richie Simpson, the overall chair of DanceBlue. “They have come together to be a part of something so much greater than any one individual, and for the last 24 hours they have literally taken a stand against cancer. They refused to accept the realities of cancer, and they showed the families in the DanceBlue Clinic they are not alone and will never be alone as they face some of the toughest circumstances life can throw at you. It has been an honor to stand alongside students at the university who are so committed to making a difference and changing the world.”


Next steps:

The new $1.6 million DanceBlue Kentucky Children's Hospital (KCH) Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic transports families to a beachside getaway.

DanceBlue celebrates opening of new pediatric cancer clinic

With a sailboat full of toys, murals of blue skies over the sea and a lighthouse illuminated with all colors of the rainbow, the new $1.6 million DanceBlue Kentucky Children’s Hospital (KCH) Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic transports families to a beachside getaway.

The expanded beach-themed clinic, supported by funds raised through the UK DanceBlue organization and dance marathon event, is designed to enhance resources, privacy and care for pediatric patients and families battling cancer. The student-run organization raised more than $1.3 million to upgrade the clinic, with additional support from donors inspired by the DanceBlue movement.

‘The transformational power of we’

On Monday, UK President Eli Capilouto, DanceBlue student-volunteers, KCH staff, and patients and their families celebrated the grand opening of the clinic during a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Capilouto commended the efforts of DanceBlue students, donors and organizers who pledged to upgrade the facility for Kentucky’s youngest cancer patients.

“With the dedication of the DanceBlue Kentucky Children’s Hospital Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic we acknowledge the transformational power of ‘we’ and the enduring dedication of UK students to build a better world,” Capilouto said. “The new clinic better positions the faculty, staff and clinicians responsible for caring for the strongest among us  the kids for whom nearly 1,000 UK students will stand and dance in a couple weeks. Our students provide the constant reminder that, together, we will fight ‘For the Kids’ until the battle is won.”

Equipped with state-of-the-art technology

Relocated to Kentucky Children’s Hospital, the new clinic boasts more than 6,000 square feet, doubling the space of the former outpatient clinic located at the Kentucky Clinic. The waiting room features an interactive lighthouse, with a touchpad that allows children to choose the color of the light, as well as a 300-gallon fish aquarium. The clinic is furnished with spacious exam rooms, four private infusion rooms for chemotherapy and three semi-private infusion rooms designated for specific age groups.

The clinic’s beach theme complements the Ocean Pod, where DanceBlue patients stay during inpatient treatment. Consistent with the theme, DanceBlue volunteers and clinic staff can leave encouraging messages for patients in a wall compartment resembling a “message in a bottle.” The waiting room also includes three computer stations where patients can check-in for appointments. The new clinic houses a separate phlebotomy and port access station, as well as an exclusive pharmacy and child life coordinator.

“Our new DanceBlue Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic has been transformational for cancer care at Kentucky Children’s Hospital,” said Dr. Lars Wagner, chief of pediatric hematology and oncology. “Our patients and their families now have a warm and spacious clinic with private and semi-private infusion rooms. My staff and I are so grateful to DanceBlue.”

People make the place

Nine-year-old patient Ryan Cremeens has received cancer treatment at the DanceBlue Clinic since June 2016. The Cremeens family recently transitioned from the old clinic to the new facility. While they appreciate the new clinic features, Eric Cremeens, Ryan’s dad, believes it’s the people at the clinic the doctors, nurses and staff who make his son’s experience meaningful.

“It obviously takes a special person to do the jobs they do at the clinic,” Eric Cremeens said. “We are more than blessed to have Dr. Wagner during our visits. He has been a calming, steady voice throughout the entire treatment process. The nurses and staff are also incredible. By the second visit everyone knew Ryan’s name and recognized his face, and it has made the whole process much better.”

Wagner has not only impacted Eric Cremeens, but Ryan has also taken favor to him, referring to him as the “Wag-man.”

“Ryan feels comfortable going there and he loves Dr. Wagner,” Cremeens said. “Dr. Wagner is more than a top-notch physician  he’s just a great person.”

Ryan Cremeens also benefits from the DanceBlue student-volunteers who serve in the clinic during his visits. He enjoys seeing DanceBlue student-volunteer Bryan Adams, who also served as his Indian Summer Camp counselor.

“Every time I see Ryan and his family, it makes my day,” Adams said. “He is filled with so much joy and he makes everyone who is around him smile and laugh.”

The largest philanthropic event at UK

DanceBlue, the largest student-run philanthropy organization at the University of Kentucky, has made a profound impact on the children treated in the DanceBlue Clinic since its inception in 2006. The annual DanceBlue Marathon benefits the Golden Matrix Fund and, in turn, the DanceBlue Clinic. DanceBlue has raised more than $9.8 million for children and pledged more than $1 million to support the new clinic in 2013.

“It is truly special with all the new and exciting things happening at UK, for our students to be able to say they built a new facility too,” said Richie Simpson, the overall chair of DanceBlue. “It is a testament to the hard work of students throughout the past 12 years, and a commitment to continue fighting for the kids in our clinic.”

Ryan is expected to complete chemotherapy on March 30. The DanceBlue 2017 Marathon will take place the weekend of Feb. 25 and 26 from 8 p.m. Saturday through 8 p.m. Sunday in Memorial Coliseum. The marathon is open to the public from start to finish. For more information about DanceBlue, registration information or to support its efforts, visit danceblue.org.


Watch our video for a tour inside the new DanceBlue Clinic.


Next steps:

  • Learn more about the pediatric cancer care provided at the DanceBlue Clinic.
  • Interested in donating to the Kentucky Children’s Hospital? Visit Give to KCH to learn more about ways you can support our mission.
The rate of Americans with a life-threatening peanut allergy has greatly risen. But avoiding peanuts might not be the best idea when it comes to prevention.

Careful exposure to peanuts may prevent allergies, experts say

George J. Fuchs III, MD

The rate of Americans suffering from food allergies, including a life-threatening peanut allergy, has dramatically increased in the past few decades. But avoiding peanuts entirely might not be the best idea when it comes to prevention.

New evidence shows peanut exposure can be OK

Peanut allergies are the leading cause of death caused by food-induced asphyxia, although death from a peanut allergy is rare. Peanut allergies typically begin during early childhood and persist into adulthood. For years, pediatricians recommended parents proceed with caution when introducing potentially allergenic foods. They advised a strict elimination of peanut products from the at-risk child’s diet until 3 years of age. But now experts point to evidence that early and frequent exposure to peanuts can prevent a lifelong peanut allergy.

Kentucky Children’s Hospital pediatric gastroenterologist Dr. George Fuchs served on an expert panel convened by the National Institutes of Health to address the prevention and management of peanut allergies in children. In a reversal of former medical recommendations, the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease approved the guidelines advising the deliberate inclusion, instead of exclusion, of age-appropriate peanut products in the infant diet.

A panel of experts re-examines an old way of thinking

The panel, which released its guidelines in January, cited high-quality research indicating that children at risk for peanut allergy who consume peanut-containing products early in life are actually less, not more, likely to develop an allergy. In the landmark Learning Early About Peanut (LEAP) allergy trial, fewer than 2 percent of children given peanut protein as part of their diet developed a peanut allergy at 60 months of age.

In contrast, 13 percent of children in a peanut-avoidance group developed a peanut allergy. The panel recommended children prone to peanut sensitivity, such as those already diagnosed with an egg allergy or eczema, begin to receive age-appropriate peanut-containing foods as early as four to six months of age. The recommendations advise those children without a predisposition to food allergies receive peanut products at the same time they transition to solid foods.

UK doctor presents key points on preventing peanut allergies

Fuchs, who serves as the chief of pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition at KCH, presented key points from the new guidelines to colleagues at the American Society of Nutrition Symposium in December. Fuchs said early introduction of peanut products enhances tolerance and reduces the risk of a peanut allergy. Avoidance of peanuts only increases the likelihood of a permanent peanut allergy.

“For the past few decades, pediatricians have been telling parents to eliminate peanut products from their baby’s diet, when avoidance may actually be the root of the allergy problem,” Fuchs said. “Our panel found introducing peanuts early on was the single-most effective step in preventing an allergy. There is a window of opportunity to teach the body’s immune system to accept that food.”

The authors anticipate the new guidelines will reduce the prevalence of peanut allergies in the U.S. Read the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease’s new recommendations for parents and caregivers here.


Next steps:

Pediatric surgeon tells little Connor’s story of hope

Written by Dr. Ana Ruzic, a pediatric surgeon at Kentucky Children’s Hospital.

Let me tell you a true story of hope. It may be difficult to read, but I promise you nowhere as difficult as being its main character. This is Connor’s story.

Nearly one year ago, Connor Stacy went home from the Kentucky Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or NICU, snuggled in his mom’s arms, too small to fit in his elf hat but nearly three times as big as the day he was born. Just recently, his mom sent me a photo of Connor wearing that famous hat. He is getting close to walking and speaking. To anyone who took care of him in his six-month NICU stay, he is the definition of hope.

Connor Stacy and his elf hat.

A premature birth, then more complications

I met Connor and his family in August 2015. They had already lived through a hailstorm of trauma, experiencing a premature birth and the subsequent marathon of the neonatal ICU.

For a NICU family, meeting a surgeon is never an easy feat. While some of these consults involve more benign needs, such as reliable IV access or an expected hernia that can wait for a repair, all too often they indicate a need for an emergent operation. Along with our neonatologists, my three surgery colleagues and I carry the privilege and the burden of meeting NICU families on a sudden, unexpected and very bad day. And on the day I met him, Connor went from well to critically ill in a matter of hours.

In the morning, he was eating and growing, and by the early afternoon, he was in advanced stages of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a severe intestinal infection often seen in premature neonates. By the early evening, he was in multi-system organ failure. More than half of babies with NEC do not make it, despite aggressive management and all the advancements of modern medicine.

Treatment for Connor

Our first step was to remove the damaged portions of Connor’s small intestine. Connor weighed only 1,200 grams and was so fragile we could not move him to the operating room. Instead, we did the operation in the NICU. In the course of the following five days, he underwent three major operations. And somewhere in the midst of it all, his kidneys stopped making urine.

When the kidneys fail, the body fills up with toxins and fluid and their function is replaced by dialysis. The dialysis continues until the renal function recovers or further

treatment becomes futile. Futility is the antithesis of hope, but we have the responsibility to our families, our patients and each other to recognize that point of no return.

I didn’t know if we would reach that with Connor, other than to tell his parents we would “keep going until we were no longer doing treatments for him, but to him.” That is not my quote, by the way.  It was taught to me by Dr. Joseph Iocono, some years ago when I was his resident. He is now my boss, my colleague and my mentor.

Thinking outside the box

Connor needed dialysis, but unfortunately, we don’t have a great way to dialyze 1,200-gram babies. With Connor, our care team had to improvise, think outside of the box and believe in something far greater than each of us individually: science, divinity, neither or both. Above all, we had to rely on faith in each other.

As joined as we are by this story, we are all different in the ways we approach medicine and patient care. We are guided by our own stories, each as different as the next. We do not always agree and that is exactly what Connor needed – for us to challenge one another, our biases and our previous outcomes. This is also the story of true multidisciplinary medicine, which takes the impossible and makes it the standard of care.

With the help of Dr. Aftab Chisti and Dr. John Raus, we devised an inventive technique to sustain Connor’s life by providing manual dialysis for Connor for two weeks until his renal function spontaneously recovered.

Connor’s team

In those two weeks Crystal, Mary, Becca, Kim, Lindsey, and a number of other nurses performed manual dialysis every 15-30 minutes for 12-hour shifts at the time.

And while the physicians came and went, Genine and Heather, Connor’s neonatal nurse practitioners, kept the care consistent and in order for the rest of us. For months to follow, Genine and Heather encouraged Connor’s family, nursed his wounds, protected his development, loved him and bonded with him the way only mothers do, before having to let him go. This is their story, as much as it is Connor’s.

By the time he was discharged home, Connor crossed paths with 11 neonatologists, four pediatric surgeons, 15 neonatal nurse practitioners and PAs, two nephrologists, nine surgery residents, and an array of respiratory, music, speech, occupational and physical therapists, each an essential piece of his puzzle.

I cannot begin to touch on the village it took to get him home. Nor can I begin to describe the dignity, compassion and kindness with which his parents, Chrissy and Dustin, graced each of us, despite living through a battle none of us will ever completely appreciate – that of a NICU parent. This, above all, is their story.

Those of us who take care of neonates carry within us a healthy dose of realism, which we drown with cautious optimism every time we walk into the hospital. Hope is that intangible quality of pediatric physicians, in whose shadow we walk each and every day, careful not to share it too much or risk losing credibility. We hold it close nonetheless. It is our guiding light, held brighter by the courage of our little patients and their families, breathing life in the very walls that surround our children’s hospital.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Next steps:

UK football coach Mark Stoops and players paid a visit to the Kentucky Children's Hospital.

Pediatric patients get a holiday visit from Coach Stoops, UK football players

UK football coach Mark Stoops and players from the team spread holiday cheer to kids at Kentucky Children’s Hospital on Tuesday.

Check it out!

Ashley Rapske's passion for baking flows into her work. She bakes and sometimes cooks for staff at Kentucky Children's Hospital several times a week.

Child Life worker’s ‘baking therapy’ spreads sweetness to KCH staff

It’s no one’s birthday, anniversary or retirement party, but Child Life specialist Ashley Rapske has a container filled with fresh-baked morsels free for the taking at Kentucky Children’s Hospital.

Rapske has worked in the KCH Child Life Program for the past three years, and most days of the week she brings cookies, bars, cakes and other baked treats with her to work.

Child Life specialists and assistants are in constant contact with patients and families, providing emotional support, procedural preparation and coordinating developmental and normative activities for children receiving inpatient treatment. They encounter hurting children and heartbreaking cases on a daily basis. Maintaining interests outside the hospital helps workers manage the stressful nature of their job.

When Rapske was interviewed for the job three years ago, her future supervisor wanted to know how she coped with stress.

“I said, ‘Oh, I like to bake,’” she said.

‘Baking therapy’ brings people together

A lifelong practitioner of “baking therapy,” Rapske finds joy and gratification in sharing the products from her oven. Her off-hours baking habit has turned into a ritual for sweets-seekers on staff at KCH. KCH nurses, doctors, therapists, maintenance staff, and Child Life specialists and assistants often stop by the Child Life Department to sample her homemade cookies, cakes, bars and snacks. She also cooks a crock-pot meal for her Child Life coworkers every week. Rapske said homemade pastries improve moods, encourage hardworking staff to take a break and bring people together during difficult times.

“I think it’s a little thing that can make a big difference,” Rapske said. “I’ve had nurses who are feeling down come in, and you can see their smile. They are like, ‘I do feel better. Thank you.’ ”

Rapske remembers how her treats brought staff together after the sudden loss of a patient on the floor. She said many staff members gathered around her batch of cookies to commiserate and work through the pain of the loss.

“We said, ‘Let’s be grateful that we get to go home at night,’” Rapske said. “It helped put things in perspective. We had a smile and a laugh, and it kind of got us over the hump.”

Sweet tooth? ‘Stop by the Child Life office’

Rapske’s recipes are often more extravagant than a standard plate of sugar cookies or tray of brownies. She dabbles with a variety of ingredients and plants unexpected surprises in her confections, such as stuffing caramel candies in peanut butter cookies. After Halloween, she repurposed leftover candy by baking a batch of Twix brownies. She also replicates nostalgic desserts, such as oatmeal cream pies, vowing the commercial version doesn’t compete with her homemade cookie. But her most popular recipe is the classic chocolate chip cookie.

“The word is out that if you need something good, stop by the Child Life office,” Rapske said.

Lessons from her mother

For Rapske, caring for children and baking were always two activities paired together. She started baking with her mother, a stay-at-home mom who ran a daycare in their home. Rapske learned recipes from her mom, but wasn’t always an expert baker. She started out by replicating her mother’s banana bread recipe. Now, she’s so familiar with her recipes that she can eyeball measurements and tinker with ingredients.

At the same time, she developed a passion for caring for children. Rapske found baking was an activity in which she could easily engage young kids. She has enjoyed showing her nieces and nephews how to crack an egg and sprinkle salt in a mixing bowl.

“They are so proud to show off their creation and what they helped to make,” Rapske said. “It’s a very sensory experience.”

A form of healthcare

As an amateur baker, Rapske can’t share her baked goods with children in the hospital, but she spreads sweetness to other children battling illness or living in poverty through a volunteer role. Every Tuesday, Rapske reports to Maxwell Christian Church to bake a custom cake for a child’s birthday for the nonprofit Sweet Blessings. She receives a description of the child’s interests and decorates the birthday cake based on the child’s wishes. Her creative cakes have ranged from Frozen princesses and superheroes to Lego constructions.

When asked why she bakes for everyone even strangers Rapske has a simple reply: baking is her way of showing others she cares.

“It’s healthcare you have to take care of yourself and help people take care of themselves too.”


Next steps:

  • UK Child Life helps provide play opportunities for sick children and their families. Learn more our program.
  • When your child is sick or hurt, you want the best care possible. That’s exactly what you get at Kentucky Children’s Hospital. Learn more about KCH.
Country artist Ben Rue visited a diabetes education class at the Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center

Country music star Ben Rue visits kids at Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center

Kids in the pediatric diabetes education class at the UK Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center welcomed a special classmate earlier this week.

Country music artist Ben Rue, who was in Lexington for the Acoustic Jam to benefit the UK Kentucky Children’s Hospital, stopped by the diabetes education class to talk with children recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

Ben was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 14. He told the kids that living with a chronic illness can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to define their lives.

“Kids with Type 1 diabetes need to know that just because you have this condition doesn’t mean that it holds you back from being or doing whatever you want to do,” he said.

Watch highlights from Ben’s visit below, including an acoustic performance for the kids at Barnstable Brown.


Next steps:

  • Learn more about the Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center, which provides medical management in every area of diabetes as well as education support to assist in lifestyle changes.
  • Interested in donating to the Kentucky Children’s Hospital? Visit Give to KCH to learn more about ways you support our mission.
Dr. Scottie Day

Meet pediatrician Scottie Day: ‘Caring for the sickest of the sick’

Making the RoundsDr. Scottie Day, associate chief medical officer at Kentucky Children’s Hospital, is the featured physician in this week’s Making the RoundsA graduate of the UK College of Medicine, Dr. Day worked in Indiana, Ohio and Hawaii before returning to Lexington in 2011. He now works at KCH in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).

When did you know you wanted to be a physician?

As a child growing up in Eastern Kentucky, I always wanted to be a physician. And I held true to that. I think that I always felt like I wanted to be in some type of servant position.

Why did you choose pediatrics as your specialty?

I originally couldn’t decide on a specialty and wanted to take care of children and adults, which led me to do my residency in internal medicine and pediatrics. However, as I went through residency, I realized I wanted to take care of the sickest of sick of children.

Working in the PICU gave me a chance to take care of small babies all the way up to older teenagers and even some young adults with childhood diseases. It took my internal medicine-pediatrics resident training and allowed me to use this knowledge to take care of the most critically ill. There is nothing more rewarding.

What makes you want to come to work every day?

As a PICU physician, each morning I do what I love most: take care of the sickest children and their families with an amazing team and fulfill my calling and talents that I have been blessed with. The stresses are high, but the rewards are priceless.

How would your friends describe you? 

Easygoing, friendly, talkative. Conscientious about others’ feelings, wanting to do every single thing, never saying no.

Do you have any guilty musical pleasures?

I listen to all music. I play music myself; I’ve played since I was 5 years old. Piano, guitar, mandolin, ukulele, drums. I listen to every single type of music.

What is your favorite aspect about living in Lexington? 

It’s got the small-town community feel, but it still has some big city pleasures. I’m originally from Kentucky, and when I moved back to Lexington, I liked being in a college town. I feel like there’s a huge sense of community here.


Watch our video interview with Dr. Scottie Day, where he talks about his patient care philosophy.


Next Steps

  • Experts at the KCH PICU take care of critically ill children with a range of medical issues, including burns, trauma injuries, and cardiovascular and neurological concerns. Learn more about our state-of-the-art services.
  • When your child is sick or hurt, you want the best care possible. That’s exactly what you get at Kentucky Children’s Hospital. Learn more about KCH.
KCH pediatrician Dr. Asha Shenoi has traveled around the world training health care providers to instruct courses on systematic pediatric critical care.

Dr. Asha Shenoi takes child-saving practices to developing countries

The first 24 hours of treatment determine the outcome of a child diagnosed with a critical illness or injury.

When healthcare practitioners respond with systematic approaches, children suffering from critical conditions such as shock or respiratory distress are more likely to survive. But physicians in resource-scarce countries often lack the advanced training to integrate such effective approaches.

The traveling pediatrician

That’s where Kentucky Children’s Hospital pediatrician Dr. Asha Shenoi comes in. She has traveled around the world training healthcare providers to teach classes on systematic pediatric critical care. Shenoi, who volunteers her time on behalf of the World Pediatric Intensive and Critical Care Foundation, is one of very few pediatric critical care specialists in the world designated by the organization to train physicians in developing or mid- to low-income countries on programmatic approaches to pediatric critical care. She is approved to administer the Pediatric BASIC critical care course – a foundational course for improving outcomes for critically ill and injured children worldwide.

Since joining the program in 2012, Shenoi has worked with pediatricians to adapt critical care training to specific parts of the world. She conducts a one-week training, which includes modules on running a skills station and coordinating simulations, and returns to the country intermittently over the next two to three years to update local instructors on current treatment methods. Instructors then host trainings for local and regional healthcare providers, bringing systematic critical care methods to otherwise unreached territories. The overarching goal of the program is to provide a sustainable system for improving critical care in disparate regions of the world.

Saving children across the globe

In October, Shenoi trained physicians at the National Children’s Hospital in Vietnam. She has conducted seven courses in four countries, including India, Vietnam and the West Indies, adapting each training to reflect the country’s native language and cultural considerations. The trainings emphasize dynamics and coordination in performing critical care procedures.

Shenoi learned about the program through her mentor when she was completing a fellowship at Emory University. Since then, she has become one of five certified trainers in the U.S. She has purchased every plane ticket herself, and the institutions where she is training provide accommodations. A native of India, Shenoi aspires to change the course of treatment for disadvantaged children whose lives might be saved through the kind of systematic critical care interventions she teaches.

“The majority of childhood deaths in these settings result from preventable and reversible causes; in the end, often what saves a child life is early recognition and systematic intervention,” Shenoi said. “Unfortunately, training opportunities in critical care in resource-limited settings are scarce, and we aim to train the trainers in these settings in developing locally relevant systematic critical care interventions.”


Next steps:

  • UK HealthCare is proud to be home to the Makenna David Pediatric Emergency Center, one of the only dedicated children’s emergency centers in the state, and the only one serving Central and Eastern Kentucky.
  • Would you know what to do if your child suffered a serious illness or injury? Check our tips now so you’re prepared if you need them.
5 ways to prevent preterm birth

5 ways to prevent preterm birth

Written by Diana Frankenburger, the childbirth education coordinator for UK HealthCare.

Prematurity and its complications are the leading cause of death in children younger than 5 in the world today. Infants born before 37 weeks gestation have more complications than full-term babies, including problems with feeding and digestion, vision and hearing, and breathing.

Premature report card

Each November, the March of Dimes publishes a Premature Birth Report Card, which grades the U.S. and each state on prematurity rates for the previous year. The goal is to be at 8.1 percent, an objective set by the Healthy People 2020 initiative, a science-based, 10-year program to improve the health of all Americans.

This year, the U.S. has a rate of 9.6 percent, earning a C letter grade. Kentucky’s rate is 10.8 percent, which unfortunately gives our state a D.

Tips to prevent preterm birth

While some risks for premature birth cannot be avoided, there are things you can do to help prevent a preterm birth. Here are a few tips:

  1. Stop smoking, or cut down to less than a half-pack per day. Smoking contributes to preterm birth, and a baby who lives in a house with smokers is also 3.5 times more likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome than a baby who doesn’t.
  2. Avoid alcohol and drugs.
  3. Get prenatal care. Learn more about prenatal care at UK Women’s Health OB-GYN.
  4. Practice oral hygiene and see your dentist. Oral infections can lead to infections that can cause preterm labor.
  5. Practice stress reduction. Be aware of how you are handling stress and get sufficient exercise and rest to help get you ready for your new family member.

Delivering at full term will help your baby be healthier, stronger and avoid the complications that come with preterm birth.


Next steps:

  • Learn more about the UK Birthing Center, the leading facility in Central Kentucky specializing in high-risk pregnancies and deliveries.
  • The Birthing Center also offers a Childbirth Preparation Program, which will help prepare you for the changes that happen during pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum. Find out more about our class offerings.