March of Dimes has published its annual March of Dimes Report Card, which highlights the state of maternal and infant health in the U.S. using the latest data on the health of moms and babies.
According to the 2021 March of Dimes Report Card, for the first time in six years, the preterm birth rate in the U.S. has gone down from 10.2% to 10.1%. Experts think that change in lifestyle during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as working from home, having more time to exercise and healthier eating may be a reason for the decline. However, more research is needed to better understand this.
Although this is good news, preterm birth is still a serious problem. Our nation continues to keep its C- grade and Southern states, such as Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, continue to experience the highest rates of prematurity. Equally alarming is the fact that communities of color continue to be at a disproportionate (unequal) risk. Black and American Indian/Alaska Native women remain up to 60 percent more likely to give birth preterm compared to White women. According to the report card, the rate of preterm birth increase among Black moms, from 14.25% to 14.36% and for American Indian/Alaska Native moms, from 11.55% to 11.61%.
Some key findings
In addition to experiencing disparities (differences) in preterm birth rates, Black and American Indian/Alaska Native families also are impacted by higher rates of infant mortality (death). Babies from both groups are still twice as likely as White babies to die before their first birthday. Additionally, the Report Card shows that:
- There was an increase in infant mortality rates in 18 states.
- Maternal death and severe maternal morbidity (unexpected and severe complications from labor and childbirth) continue to affect Black and Brown families at higher rates.
- Black women are three times more likely to die than White women are, and they, along with American Indian and Hispanic women have the highest rates of severe maternal morbidity compared to White women.
This maternal and child crisis does not have one root cause or one single solution. Many factors are causing gaps in health equity and taking a toll on the health of moms and babies. March of Dimes is committed to driving change with our partners. This includes:
- Our #BlanketChange policy agenda. The goal is to help states take action to improve the health of our nation’s families.
- Supporting efforts to expand access to midwifery care and doulas. Midwives and doulas play a key role in helping improve access to care in under-resourced areas, improve birth outcomes and reduce rates of maternal death and illness.
- Implicit bias training. March of Dimes offers implicit bias training for providers as a way to help uncover racist practices in medical care and break cycles of discrimination.
- Funding research. This includes funding of COVID-19 research and five Prematurity Research Centers in the U.S. and in London to better understand preterm birth.
- The Mom and Baby Action Network (M-BAN). We’re working on the national and community level to close health equity gaps.
Join March of Dimes to improve the health of all moms and babies across the country. Here are two simple ways to get involved:
- Advocate with us by calling on Congress to prioritize our nation’s moms and babies in their end-of-year package at BlanketChange.org.
- Donate at MarchofDimes.org to help us improve the health of moms and babies across the country through programs, research and advocacy.