The nation’s premature birth rates have increased for the second year in a row after a steady decline for nearly a decade. New data released in time for World Prematurity Day, Nov. 17, show slipping progress and a growing divide based on race, ethnicity and ZIP code.
Preterm birth is the largest cause of death for babies in the United States.
Each year, the March of Dimes analyzes the National Center for Health Statistics data and issues a report card on the nation’s progress in cutting preterm birth rates. The goal is to cut rates to 8.1% by 2020. However, the rate increased from 9.6% in 2015 to 9.8% in 2016, earning the nation a grade of “C” overall.
Puerto Rico, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and West Virginia received failing grades for their preterm birth rates, which ranged from 11.5% in Puerto Rico to the worst rate of 13.6% in Mississippi. Only four states earned an “A,” with New Hampshire earning the best grade at 7.8%. An interactive map shows data for each state.
According to a new preterm birth disparity ratio measure, black women and American Indian/Alaska Native women were 49% and 18% more likely to deliver preterm, respectively, compared to white women.
To halt deteriorating rates, the March of Dimes has announced a multifaceted campaign focused on advocacy, education and clinical care programs. It also will bolster research on unknown causes of premature birth and ways to prevent it through five new Prematurity Research Centers.