Washington lowered its preterm birth rate once again, giving more babies a healthy start in life and contributing to the national five-year improving trend. According to new data, there were 672 fewer babies born too soon in Washington. This trend is cause for celebration during November, which is recognized as Prematurity Awareness Month.
Washington lowered its preterm birth rate to 9.8 percent, but not enough to change its grade. It again earned a “B” on the March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card. The biggest news here is that Washington is very close to achieving the 2020 goal of reducing prematurity to 9.6 percent of all live births.
“We’re glad to see our state’s preterm birth rate is improving. Washington’s progress means that more babies are being born healthy, we’re saving money on health care, and families are being spared the heartache of having a baby born too soon,” said Washington State Health Officer and pediatrician Dr. Maxine Hayes. “To continue this progress, the state Department of Health and the March of Dimes have jointly set a goal to reduce premature birth in Washington by 8 percent or more by 2014.”
Implementing proven interventions can reduce the risk of an early birth. Here, in Washington the March of Dimes is supporting multiple initiatives to improve the health of moms and babies including: Eliminating Elective Deliveries Before 39 Weeks; Funding Innovative Models of Prenatal Care to Address Health Inequities; Providing NICU Family Support; and, Supporting Preconception/Interconception Health.
Washington is part of a national trend toward improved preterm birth rates, 40 states, including Washington, saw improvement in their preterm birth rates between 2010 and 2011. Nationwide, the largest declines in preterm birth occurred among babies born at 34 to 36 weeks of pregnancy, but the improvement was across the board. Nationally, every racial and ethnic group benefitted, and the preterm birth rates for babies born at all stages of pregnancy improved.
These improvements mean not just healthier babies, but also a potential savings in health care and economic costs to society.
The March of Dimes attributed the improved rates to an expansion of successful programs and interventions, including the Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait Campaign and actions by state health officials who formally set goals to lower the preterm birth rate 8 percent by 2014 from the 2009 rate.
“We will continue to work together to improve access to health care, help women quit smoking and, through the March of Dimes Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait consumer education campaign, encourage women and health care providers to avoid scheduling a delivery before 39 weeks of pregnancy unless medically necessary,” said Washington State Representative Eileen Cody.
The United States again received a “C” on the March of Dimes Report Card with a preterm birth rate of 11.7 percent. Grades are based on comparing each state’s and the nation’s 2011 preliminary preterm birth rates with the March of Dimes 2020 goal of 9.6 percent of all live births. The states that performed better than Washington are: Vermont (8.8 percent), Oregon (9.1 percent), New Hampshire (9.5 percent), and Maine (9.6 percent). California tied Washington with 9.8 percent of births being premature.
The Report Card information for the U.S. and states is available online at: marchofdimes.com/reportcard.
Preterm birth, birth before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy, is a serious health problem that costs the United States more than $26 billion annually, according to the Institute of Medicine. It is the leading cause of newborn death, and babies who survive an early birth often face the risk of lifetime health challenges, such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities and others. Even babies born just a few weeks early have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than full-term infants. At least 39 weeks of pregnancy are important to a baby’s health because many important organs, including the brain and lungs, are not completely developed until then.
“Preterm birth is a common and complex problem with many contributing factors,” said March of Dimes State Director Ashley Summers. “It affects babies of all races and ethnicities and families from all walks of life. We hope the report card will focus attention on this serious problem and encourage the community to be informed and engaged to fight for our most vulnerable - babies.”
On November 17th, partners from around the world will mark the Second World Prematurity Day in support of the Every Woman Every Child effort led by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. An estimated 15 million babies are born preterm and of those more than a million die as a result of their early birth, according to an October 2009 March of Dimes report on the global toll of preterm birth. More information can be found atmarchofdimes.com/washington. Or, the community can raise awareness on the issue of prematurity by going towww.facebook.com/worldprematurityday.
About the March of Dimes
The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.