This year we have some great news to report: the national premature birth rate fell to 11.4 percent in 2013 – the lowest in 17 years — meeting the federal Healthy People 2020 goal seven years early. Despite this progress though, the U.S. still received a “C” on the 7th annual March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card because it fell short of the more-challenging 9.6 percent target.
“Achieving the Healthy People 2020 goal is reason for celebration, but the U.S. still has one of the highest rates of preterm birth of any high resource country and we must change that,” said March of Dimes President Dr. Jennifer L. Howse. “We are investing in a network of five prematurity research centers to find solutions to this still too-common, costly, and serious problem.”
The March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card compares each state’s premature birth rate to the March of Dimes goal of 9.6 percent of all live births by 2020. On the 2014 Report Card, 27 states and Puerto Rico saw their premature birth rates improve between 2012 and 2013, earning better grades for five of them: Iowa, Virginia, Arkansas, Nevada and Oklahoma. Five states earned an “A,” including California, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon and Vermont. Twenty states earned a “B,” 20 states received a “C,” two states and the District of Columbia got a “D,” and only three states and Puerto Rico, received an “F” on the Report Card. Click here to see how your state your did.
The Report Card also tracks states’ progress toward lowering their premature birth rates by following three principle risk reduction strategies:
• 30 states and the District of Columbia reduced the percentage of uninsured women of childbearing age;
• 34 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico reduced the percentage of women of childbearing age who smoke;
• 30 states and Puerto Rico lowered the late preterm birth rate, babies born between 34 and 36 weeks gestation.
Premature birth is the leading cause of newborn death, and babies who survive an early birth often face serious and sometimes lifelong health challenges, such as breathing problems, jaundice, developmental delays, vision loss, and cerebral palsy. Even babies born just a few weeks too soon have higher rates of death and disability than full-term babies.
The March of Dimes is also calling for a nationwide effort to reduce U.S. premature births to 5.5 percent of all live births by 2030. Seven other developed countries already have premature birth rates below 6 percent, and 15 have rates below 7 percent. The U.S. rate of 11.4 percent in 2013 is one of the highest. The U.S. ranked 37th out of 39 high resource countries in 2010.
“The United States spends more money per capita on health care than almost any other country in the world, and yet our premature birth rate and our infant mortality rate are among the highest.” says Dr. Howse. “The U.S. should aspire to be among the best globally in preterm birth rates and give all our children a healthy beginning.”