November is Prematurity Awareness Month, and on November 17, 2010, the March of Dimes released its annual report card on premature birth statistics and prevention efforts in the US. The good news? Following three decades of increases, in 2008 the nation saw the first two-year decline in the preterm birth rate, a 4 percent drop from 2006. The 2008 preliminary preterm birth rate dropped to 12.3 percent, from the 2006 final rate of 12.8 percent. The March of Dimes says 79 percent of the decline was among babies born just a few weeks too soon.
The not-so-good news? Overall, the US received a "D" on the report card, when national preterm birth rates were measured against the federal government's Healthy People 2010 goals. As the March of Dimes notes, the US also has a high rate of preterm birth compared to most industrialized countries.
"Our country has one of the highest rates of preterm birth in the world," says US Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin, in response to the report. "We have to do better."
On the 2010 report card, 17 states earned a "C," 20 received a "D," and 13 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico failed. Vermont and New Hampshire had the lowest rates of preterm birth (9.5 and 9.6, respectively). Puerto Rico and Mississippi had the highest rates, with almost 20 percent of babies born before their due dates. However, almost all states saw improvement in at least one of the three risk factors for preterm birth:
- 28 states and Puerto Rico reduced the percentage of women of childbearing age who smoke
- 17 states and the District of Columbia reduced the percentage of uninsured women of childbearing age
- 37 states and Puerto Rico lowered the late preterm birth rate, infants born between 34 and 36 weeks gestation
How does your state stack up? Check out individual state rankings at www.marchofdimes.com/downloads/PAD10_map.jpg .