Live

Watch CBSN Live

Walk Targets Premature Births

A chilling statistic shows that premature birth rates, the leading cause of newborn deaths in the U.S., have been rising.

Since 1981, the rate of premature births in America has increased by 27 percent, according to the March of Dimes.

To educate Americans and raise funds to help reduce the rates of premature birth, the March of Dimes has organized the annual WalkAmerica fundraiser.

Dr. Nancy Green, March of Dimes medical director, visited The Early Show Friday to tell viewers how they can participate in the fundraiser.

Experts say preterm delivery can happen to any pregnant woman. And, in nearly half the cases, no one knows why.

Since 1970, the annual walk has raised more than $1 billion to help promote the health of the nation's newborns. With more than seven million participants, WalkAmerica will take place this year in more than 1,100 communities on April 26 and 27. Dr. Green says the goal this year is to raise cash for lifesaving research and innovative programs to save babies from birth defects, other infant problems and prematurity.

In January, the March of Dimes launched a five-year $75 million campaign for the prevention of premature births. WalkAmerica will be the first major event for the new campaign.