News Release: Research, School of Public Health

Mar. 3,  2009

Emory Awarded March of Dimes Grant to Study Premature Birth

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Emory University epidemiologist Ramkumar Menon, PhD, has received a March of Dimes Prematurity Research Initiative (PRI) grant to study preterm birth. He is one of only seven U.S. researchers recognized with a March of Dimes PRI grant this year and will receive $314,323 funding over the next three years.

Menon, an associate research professor of epidemiology, Emory's Rollins School of Public Health, is currently examining genetic, environmental and other risk factors for spontaneous preterm birth, defined as birth before 37 weeks gestation. His research on preterm birth spans nearly two decades.

"I'm interested in exploring the genetic aspects of preterm birth especially as it relates to racial disparities," says Menon. "This grant will allow me to examine the genetic factors and the biomarkers of preterm birth and combine them to come up with a risk assessment model." 

Preterm birth is a leading cause of infant death in the United States. Babies who survive an early birth often face serious and sometimes lifelong health problems, including breathing problems, jaundice, developmental delays, vision loss and cerebral palsy. More than 543,000 babies are born too soon each year, and recent federal statistics show that the nation’s preterm birth rate has risen to 12.8 percent - a 36 percent increase since the early 1980s.

"Dr. Menon's research is one of many studies critical to ending the epidemic of preterm birth," says Jennifer L. Howse, PhD, president of the March of Dimes. "That’s why we created this grant and continue to award them even in these difficult economic times. Because the goal is for every baby to be born healthy and full-term."

"Georgia is proud to play a hands-on role in searching for the answers to prematurity by having one of the Prematurity Research Initiative grants,” says William Sexson, MD, associate dean of clinical affairs, Emory University School of Medicine, and chair of the March of Dimes' Georgia Prematurity Campaign. "The March of Dimes Georgia Chapter supports the efforts of Dr. Menon and we’re hopeful that in the future, mothers and babies will benefit from his research."

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The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service. Its components include schools of medicine, nursing, and public health; Yerkes National Primate Research Center; the Emory Winship Cancer Institute; and Emory Healthcare, the largest, most comprehensive health system in Georgia. The Woodruff Health Sciences Center has a $2.3 billion budget, 17,000 employees, 2,300 full-time and 1,900 affiliated faculty, 4,300 students and trainees, and a $4.9 billion economic impact on metro Atlanta.

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