Premature Birth Rate Down in Ark

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thumb_040ba06499af7f5LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Nov. 6, 2014) – Arkansas’ preterm birth rate dropped again, earning it a better grade on the March of Dimes 2014 Premature Birth report card.

Arkansas’ preterm birth rate was 12.7 percent in 2013, down from 13.3 in 2012, earning it a “C” on the report card.

The national preterm birth rate fell to 11.4 percent in 2013 – the lowest in 17 years — meeting the federal Health People 2020 goal seven years early. Despite this progress, the nation still received a “C” on the annual report card and still has the highest rates of preterm birth of any high resource country.

“We’re proud of Arkansas’ better grade on the report card. Their success is a testament to the hard work of Arkansas’ state and local health departments, our hospital partners and health care providers. It shows that when a health problem, as complex as preterm birth, is challenged with strong policies and bold leadership, babies benefit,” said R Whit Hall, MD. Professor, Neonatology at UAMS Medical Center. “Through the March of Dimes’ unique, team-based research projects, we will continue the important work of discovering the unknown causes of preterm birth so more babies will get a healthy start in life.”

Here, in Arkansas the March of Dimes is supporting group prenatal programs, education, and hospital efforts to end early elective deliveries that will help women have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies.

In Arkansas, the rate of late preterm births is 9.0 percent the rate of women smoking is 29.2 percent, and the rate of uninsured women is 25 percent.

These factors contribute to improved infant health in Arkansas. It earned a star on the report card for:

  • Reducing the percent of uninsured women of child-bearing age
  • Lowering the late preterm birth rate

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 actions by state health officials here and every other state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

“We will continue to work together to improve access to health care, help women quit smoking and, through our 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 R Whit Hall, MD.

Grades are based on comparing each state’s and the nation’s 2012 preliminary preterm birth rates with the March of Dimes 2020 goal of 9.6 percent of all live births. The U.S. preterm birth rate is 11.5 percent, a decline of 10 percent from the peak of 12.8 percent in 2006.

The Report Card information for the U.S. and states will be available online at:

Premature birth, birth before 37 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.

On November 17th, the March of Dimes and organizations from around the world will mark the fourth World Prematurity Day. The World Prematurity Network, (WPN), a global coalition of consumer and parent groups working together to raise awareness and prevent premature birth in their countries, is calling for action to prevent preterm birth and improve care for babies born too soon. An estimated 15 million babies are born premature and of those more than a million die as a result of their early birth. Locally, The Fountain at UAMS Hospital will be lit “Purple” during the month of November for Premature Awareness Month.

The 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.