Brooklyn Boro

New laws protecting premature infants gaining steam in Brooklyn

December 29, 2017 By Paula Katinas & John Alexander Brooklyn Daily Eagle
John Quaglione and his daughter Natalie Grace attended a New York Islanders hockey game at Barclays Center on Nov. 28 (Giving Tuesday) and met the team mascot. The March of Dimes was designated as the Charity of the Game that night. Photo courtesy of Quaglione

State Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-I, Brooklyn) announced a new law taking effect immediately that helps reduce bureaucratic red tape for the families of premature infants and other newborns needing specialized care.

Golden voted to support the legislation passed earlier this year that will remove insurance requirements for prior authorization when infants need medical care in neonatal intensive care units (NICU).

In addition, the state Department of Health recently announced that coverage of pasteurized donor human milk (PDHM) in Medicaid fee-for-service started this month, and coverage under Medicaid Managed Care will begin on Feb. 15.  This coverage will help prevent deadly complications faced by premature infants in NICUs.

According to a statement released by Golden, donor milk can be life saving for low birth weight, premature babies, as it is the best preventative measure second only to a mother’s own milk in preventing necrotizing enterocolitis, a devastating bacterial disease that affects the intestine of premature infants.

At a cost two- to three- times higher than formula, PDHM can be an unaffordable out-of-pocket expense for many families who would benefit from it.  Enabling Medicaid coverage not only helps the infant, but also saves considerable state dollars through better health outcomes, prevented infections, and shorter neonatal stays.

“The enactment of these important laws will ensure fragile babies have access to the care that gives them the best chance for survival. The measures, along with the Newborn Health and Safe Sleep Pilot Program established this year, will make great strides in reducing infant mortality rates, and premature births, in New York,” said Golden.

The Newborn Health and Safe Sleep Pilot Program, signed into law in October will help reduce infant mortality rates across New York state by educating parents about safe sleep practices and exploring the use of “baby boxes.” 

Baby boxes, according to Golden, can help provide infants with a secure place to sleep and include educational materials and newborn essentials that encourage healthy and safe practices.

“The state will be examining the role baby boxes can play in infant health and begin a pilot program in areas with high infant mortality rates or areas with poor birth outcomes,” said Golden.

In addition to these three Senate initiatives adopted this year, the budget also includes $27 million for maternal and child health programs.

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The work being done by nonprofit organizations across the country is important, but those groups could use a stronger helping hand from Congress, according to a Brooklyn activist involved in the March of Dimes.

John Quaglione, co-chairman of the Brooklyn Committee of the March of Dimes, is calling on senators and House members to throw their weight behind a strongly worded resolution that would designate the month of November each year as Prematurity Awareness Month.

The designation is important because it would go a long way toward raising public awareness of the plight faced by the parents of premature infants, according to Quaglione, a Bay Ridge resident who has two daughters who were both born prematurely.

Formed in 1938 during the Roosevelt administration, the March of Dimes offers assistance and support to parents of premature infants. The organization has endorsed the congressional resolution, Quaglione said.

“I firmly believe that our city, state and nation must do more to reduce the rate of and presence of premature births,” Quaglione said in a statement.

To bolster his case, Quaglione has written letters to both of New York’s Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, as well as his representative in the House, U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan (R-C-Bay Ridge-Southwest Brooklyn-Staten Island), requesting their support for the resolution.

The measure was introduced in the House by U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle (R-Pennsylvania) and by U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia).

Language in the resolution supports efforts to improve the health of the mother during and after pregnancy; advance the care and treatment of infants born prematurely; and honor people who work to reduce premature births.

“As a father of two premature children, I am proud to team up locally with the March of Dimes to support their efforts raise awareness and funds to end prematurity and give babies a healthy start at life. It is time to expand this research and education on this important health topic and give the babies to be born the very best chance,” Quaglione said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control defines premature births as births occurring before the completion of the 37th week of pregnancy. In 2016, one in 10 infants born in the U.S. was premature, according to thee CDC.

The March of Dimes, in its 2017 Premature Birth Report Card, issued by gave the U.S. a “C” grade, citing persistently high rates of premature births as a factor. The rate of premature births in the U.S. increased in 2015 and again in 2016, the report found.

Quaglione, deputy chief of staff to state Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-Southwest Brooklyn), was tapped by March of Dimes officials to serve as the co-chairman of the Brooklyn Committee of the March of Dimes New York when the chapter was formed in 2016.

Quaglione and his wife Kerry, an assistant principal at P.S. 127 in Bay Ridge, caught the eye of March of Dimes officials through their enthusiastic participation in the annual March for Babies walk-a-thon in Manhattan. The event raises money for the March of Dimes. The Quagliones have single-handedly raised tens of thousands of dollars over the years.

“I’m very excited about it,” Quaglione told the Brooklyn Eagle at the time he was appointed co-chairman. “The March of Dimes New York chapter noticed at the marches that a lot of the people participating were from Brooklyn. And there is a lot of enthusiasm among the parents in Brooklyn about having our own chapter.”

The Quagliones participate in the March for Babies under the name “Team Natalie” in honor of their older daughter, Natalie Grace, who was two months premature when she was born in 2011. The couple has a second daughter, Olivia, who was also born prematurely.

Back in 2011, John and Kerry Quaglione had to visit Natalie Grace in the neonatal intensive care unit at New York Methodist Hospital, where the baby was kept in an incubator. The couple was deeply moved by the loving care that Natalie Grace received at the hospital. They were also grateful for the emotional support they were given by the hospital’s staff.

The Quagliones decided to give back by dedicating themselves to raising money for the March of Dimes.

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