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Preterm Birth Increases In U.S. For First Time In 8 Years
Updated November 1, 2016 10:21 AM | Filed under: Health
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(WHITE PLAINS, N.Y.) - The health of babies in the United States has taken a step backward as the nation's preterm birth rate worsened for the first time in eight years, the March of Dimes reports.

The U.S. earned a "C" grade on the latest March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card amidst widening differences in prematurity rates across different races and ethnicities.

"The 2016 March of Dimes Report Card demonstrates that there is an unfair burden of premature birth among specific racial and ethnic groups as well as geographic areas," says Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. "The March of Dimes strives for a world where every baby has a fair chance, yet we see this is not the reality for many mothers and babies. Babies in this country have different chances of surviving and thriving simply based on the circumstances of their birth."

The U.S. preterm birth rate went up from 9.57 to 9.63 in 2015, according to final data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Across the country, preterm birth rates were nearly 48 percent higher among black women and more than 15 percent higher among American Indian/Alaska Native women compared to white women.

Indiana's preterm birth rate of 9.6%, down slightly from last year's rate of 9.7 percent, earned the state a "C" on the 2016 Premature Report Card. While March of Dimes strives for a world where every baby has a fair chance, this is not the reality for many mothers and babies in Indiana. For example, the preterm birth rate in Marion County is 36 percent higher than the preterm birth rate in St. Joseph County. Across races and ethnicities, the difference is even starker with the preterm birth rate among black women 46 percent higher than the rate among all other women in the state.

Premature birth (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) is the leading cause of death of babies in the U.S. Babies who survive an early birth often face serious and lifelong health problems, including breathing problems, jaundice, vision loss, cerebral palsy and intellectual delays. In addition to the human toll, preterm birth accounts for more than $26 billion annually in avoidable medical and societal costs, according to the National Academy of Medicine.

"Americans lead the world in medical research and care, yet the U.S. preterm birth rate still ranks near the bottom of high-resource nations," Dr. Edward R.B. McCabe, March of Dimes Chief Medical Officer said. "We can do better by mobilizing resources and driving best practices and policies to ensure that no mother or baby falls through the cracks."

Dr. McCabe urged broader use of proven interventions in the most-challenged communities: for example, an initiative by the March of Dimes in Mississippi to eliminate early elective (non-medically indicated) deliveries, which prompted Mississippi Medicaid to implement policy changes that have helped more babies there have full-term births.

The 2016 Premature Birth Report Card provides rates and grades for states and counties in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, based on NCHS data. March of Dimes also features a disparity index score that ranks and tracks state progress towards the elimination of racial/ethnic disparities in preterm birth. Maine ranked first on the disparity index score, while Hawaii ranked 50th. Indiana fell in the bottom half with a ranking of 35.

Seven states -- Arkansas, Connecticut, Idaho, Nebraska, New Mexico, Utah, and Wisconsin - received worse grades this year than last year on the March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card.

Four states - New Hampshire, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington -- earned an "A" on the 2016 Premature Birth Report Card; 16 states received a "B"; 21 states and the District of Columbia got a "C"; six states and Puerto Rico got a "D"; and three states - Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi -- received an "F."

Individuals are encouraged to visit to learn more about prematurity and disparity in their own state; sign up to raise awareness on World Prematurity Day; and support programs and groundbreaking research addressing the causes of prematurity.

About March of Dimes
March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. For more than 75 years, moms and babies have benefited from March of Dimes research, education, vaccines, and breakthroughs.

For the latest resources and health information, visit our websites and To participate in our annual fundraising event, visit If you have been affected by prematurity or birth defects, visit our community to find comfort and support. For detailed national, state and local perinatal statistics, visit You can also find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

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