March of Dimes Releases Annual Premature Birth Report Card

November 06, 2014|12:02 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

The national preterm 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, 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 set by the March of Dimes, the group said today.

Preterm 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.

With its "Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait Campaign," the March of Dimes has encouraged women and their health care providers to avoid scheduling an early elective delivery before at least 39 weeks of pregnancy. Based on quality improvement programs at hospitals, there has been dramatic reduction in early elective deliveries. Other factors driving improvement of preterm birth rates are fewer women smoking, and improved access to maternity care. 

The March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card compares each state's preterm birth rate to the March of Dimes goal of 9.6 percent of all live births by 2020. View state report cards.

The March of Dimes and ASTHO have established an interim goal to reduce the preterm birth rate in each state by a minimum of 8 percent by 2014 (measured against 2009 data). To learn more, visit ASTHO's Healthy Babies Initiative web page: www.astho.org/healthybabies.