NOW, a family-owned and leading manufacturer of dietary supplements, will provide more than $100,000 in funding and vitamin D supplements to support Protect Our Children NOW!
Now will provide Vitamin D-3 5,000 IU Chewables for pregnant women as part of a pilot program in Missoula, Montana.
The pilot program, spearheaded by the international public health nonprofit organization GrassrootsHealth, will be conducted at the Western Montana Clinic in Missoula, Montana, with plans to expand to other cities in the near future. The two-year project is designed to improve birth outcomes and combat increased healthcare costs associated with in-utero vitamin D deficiency.
According to the March of Dimes, Montana's current preterm birth rate is 9.3 percent—29th in the United States—at an annual estimated cost of $71 million. Research has shown that proper prenatal education, vitamin D supplementation and screening could save at least $35 million.
"NOW's mission is to empower people to lead healthier lives," said Jim Emme, NOW's CEO. "We are honored to partner with GrassrootsHealth to provide vitamin D to these pregnant women in an effort to have a positive impact on their pregnancies as well as the future health of their children."
Lead researcher Carol Wagner, M.D., a pediatrics professor at the Medical University of South Carolina has been running a pilot program there for two years. An early meta-analysis found that pregnant women with a vitamin D serum level of 40 ng/ml or higher have a 59 percent lower risk of preterm both than pregnant women with serum levels lower than 20 ng/ml. Preliminary results from the South Carolina program should be released later this year.
Recent research published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology further linked vitamin D deficiency to preterm birth.
At Western Montana Clinic, NOW will provide $60,000 in vitamin D-3 5,000 IU Chewables. Participants who qualify for the program will receive the supplements, educational materials, access to an online forum, and a local support contact. Further blood tests will measure vitamin D serum levels at 24 weeks' and at 36 weeks' gestation. Doctors and nurses at WMC will also receive continuing medical education activities on the importance of vitamin D testing and supplementation in pregnant women.
"It's our expectation that results of Protect Our Children NOW! will dovetail nicely with the preliminary results in South Carolina, further showcasing the tremendous impact vitamin D supplementation can have on improved birth outcomes," said Carole Baggerly, founder and director of GrassrootsHealth. "We couldn't have launched this program without the generous support of our partners like NOW, and it's our hope that we can prompt other institutions across the country to follow suit."