Two-year-old Isabel Brzezinski joined her father, Brad, to raise funds in support of healthy mothers and healthy babies during the March of Dimes’ annual March for Babies: Mothers Movement. The event saw hundreds of walkers strolling along the Charles River on a sunny Saturday. Jessica Paolino, a mother who lost her premature son, Eddie Manuel Arnold, to hydrocephalus, spoke at the event about the loss of her son. Paolino launched the EMA project to support bereaved families, paying tribute to her son by providing care packages and local programs to grieving families.
Paolino’s grief journey spurred her to create a support system for families who have lost a pregnancy, lost a child, or experienced embryonic loss. Paolino also recognized the lack of support for Latino people dealing with grief and pain, explaining that it is safe to talk about grief and to deal with pain publicly. Statistics support her position, with black and dark-skinned women in Massachusetts being two to three times more likely to give birth prematurely.
Despite Massachusetts earning a “B-” rating in the most recent March of Dimes report card for maternal and child health, down from a “B” rating last year, the state is still doing better than others, according to Chloe Schwartz, director of infant and maternal and child health at the March of Dimes chapter. The focus of the March of Dimes mission is now on healthy mothers and healthy babies that reduce inequality. This requires a multi-pronged approach, including the medical side, the legislative side, and the educational side.
Several bills have been submitted to fund grant opportunities, diversify the prenatal workforce, and expand Medicaid coverage for doulas, non-clinical care providers who offer social and emotional support. While it may take time and focus, board Chairman Craig Best emphasized that reducing prematurity, birth defects, and inequality is a generational issue.