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March of Dimes
March of Dimes is the name of a United States health charity, whose mission is to improve the health of babies. It was founded in 1938 as the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis to defeat the epidemic disease polio.
Poliomyelitis was one of the most dreaded illnesses of the 20th century, and had killed or paralyzed thousands of Americans during the first half of the 20th century. March of Dimes was founded as the "National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis" on January 3, 1938 during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Roosevelt himself was paralyzed with what at the time was believed to be polio, though it now seems this diagnosis was mistaken. The original purpose of the Foundation was to raise money for polio research and to care for those suffering from the disease. The name emphasized the national, nonpartisan, and public nature of the new organization, as opposed to private foundations established by wealthy families. The effort began with a radio appeal, asking everyone in the nation to contribute a dime (10 cents) to fight polio.
"March of Dimes" was originally the name of the annual fundraising event held in January by the Foundation. The name "March of Dimes" for the fundraising campaign was coined by entertainer Eddie Cantor as a play on the popular newsreel feature of the day, The March of Time. Along with Cantor, many top Hollywood, Broadway, radio, and television stars served as promoters of the charity. Because of his close association with the cause, Roosevelt was portrayed on the U.S. dime after his death. Over the years, the name "March of Dimes" became synonymous with that of the charity and was officially adopted in 1979.
For its first 17 years, the March of Dimes provided support for the work of many innovative and practical polio researchers and virologists. In the post-World War II years, the number of polio cases in the United States increased sharply, making the cause even more urgent. Then, on April 12, 1955, the March of Dimes held a news conference following the announcement to the world at the University of Michigan that a polio vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk was both safe and effective. The largest clinical trial in U.S. history, involving more than 1.8 million schoolchildren, had shown the vaccine to be 80 to 90 percent effective in preventing paralytic polio.
After supporting the development of two successful vaccines against polio (both Jonas Salk's and Albert Sabin's research were partly funded by the March of Dimes), the organization, rather than going out of business, decided in 1958 to use its charitable infrastructure to serve mothers and babies with a new mission: to prevent premature birth, birth defects and infant mortality. The organization accomplishes this with programs of research, community services, education, and advocacy.
Today in the USA, March of Dimes funds researchers are working in biochemistry, microbiology, developmental biology, genetics, pediatrics, and many other fields. Along the way, it has helped support special neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) designed to treat sick babies; drug treatments to replace surgery for babies with a common heart defect; and folic acid education and food fortification to prevent neural tube defects, among other advances.
As of April 2007, Tom Bergeron is the national celebrity spokesperson.
Some of the research conducted by March of Dimes involves laboratory animals. Organizations, such as PETA and PCRM, have raised concerns about the use of animals in experiments conducted by March of Dimes. March of Dimes asserts that it supports the use of non-animal research alternatives, whenever possible, but it "could not fulfill its mission to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects and infant death" without supporting research involving animals.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "March_of_Dimes". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|