Making a Difference:
KET's 'Born Too Soon'




When people see KET's name on a documentary, they associate it with being true and real and valuable—a respected news source. This really gave us a voice to talk to people about late-preterm birth, which is the main thing we can do something about.

Katrina Thompson

Director of Program Services,
Kentucky March of Dimes

When it comes to having a baby, it turns out, just a couple weeks can mean a big difference between a healthy baby and an emergency helicopter flight for a newborn fighting for his life. Katrina Thompson from KY. March of Dimes

That message, brought to dramatic life in the KET documentary Born Too Soon, is central to the March of Dimes' current campaign to lower the rates of late-preterm birth, says Katrina Thompson, state director of program services for the Kentucky March of Dimes. And KET is helping her spread the word.

"Those interviewed for Born Too Soon are experts in their fields," noted Thompson, whose responsibilities include educating hospitals, physicians, other health-care providers, and individuals about the prevention of birth defects.

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"KET has a strong reputation for airing factual, important, evidence-based programs. The partnership between KET, the March of Dimes, the Department for Public Health, and Johnson & Johnson helped us reach a large, large audience."

Produced in conjunction with these organizations and funded in part by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, Born Too Soon details the consequences of late-term prematurity—babies born at 35 to 38 weeks' gestation. A 40-weeks gestation is considered optimal.

Many of these births, it is noted in the program, are the result of convenience scheduling—women whose faith in modern medicine to protect the lives of newborn infants leads them to have their babies early, when it's convenient to them.

But, as Born Too Soon points out, preterm birth is now the most common, serious, and costly infant health problem facing our nation—our rates are double that of most European countries. It's the leading cause of death in the first year of life.

Worth the Wait

"Kentucky was the first state to do a pilot project called 'Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait,' both in weight as in size and wait as in time," she said. "We are encouraging women, through that campaign, to strive for a normal pregnancy term. We are encouraging women who do not medically need to deliver before that to go the full term."

Just in recent years studies have proven that brain and other crucial gestational development takes place in these final weeks. And, despite advancements in neonatal care, often due-date estimates can be off by several weeks, Thompson says, leading to some mothers of preterm babies being induced to deliver far too soon.

Now, with the expert testimony and authoritative information contained in Born Too Soon, Thompson and other March of Dimes educators can effectively spread the word.

"When people see KET's name on a documentary, they associate it with being true and real and valuable—a respected news source," she said. "This really gave us a voice to talk to people about late-preterm birth, which is the main thing we can do something about. You're always going to have those babies who are born very early. But those later births, the ones we can do something about, this gave us a voice to talk about that."

The March of Dimes of Kentucky, which has purchased more than 100 copies of the documentary for distribution and use, is currently using Born Too Soon on multiple levels. It is presented to families in local health department home-visitation programs, in churches, to civic groups, grandparent groups, to school/parent groups, in smoking cessation classes, prenatal classes, and even to train March of Dimes staff and volunteers.

"One of the greatest tools we have in this fight is knowledge—not just the consumers but also for the physicians, to try and get everyone to wait, no matter what their schedule or whatever else, to wait until that baby is 39, 40 weeks and it can spend that time in the womb unless there is some medical reason for it not to.

"It's been a wonderful piece for us," she added. "We are grateful to have a partner like KET. Part of the fight is to educate people. It is so helpful to us to have KET to help spread the message."

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Born Too Soon: A KET Special Report is a KET production, and is funded, in part, by a grant from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.