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U.S. Scores a 'D' on Preterm Birth Report Card
Date:11/17/2009

March of Dimes' annual state-by-state stats show need for improvement

TUESDAY, Nov. 17 (HealthDay News) -- The United States is doing a poor job of reducing preterm births, according to a new report, which found Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana have especially high numbers of early, life-threatening deliveries.

Vermont and New Hampshire were the only states with a preterm birth rate under 10 percent, while in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, the premature birth rate ranged from 16.5 to 18.3 percent.

Each year, the March of Dimes ranks each state according to its rate of premature births -- babies born before 37 weeks of gestation. Preterm births contribute to infant mortality and can put children at risk for lifelong problems, including cerebral palsy and developmental disabilities.

The U.S. premature birth rate was 12.7 percent in 2007 (the year the birth data was collected), nearly twice the goal of 7.6 percent set by the federal government's Healthy People 2010 campaign.

In the March of Dimes report, states were graded on how closely they came to meeting the preterm birth objective. No state earned an "'A" and Vermont was the only state to earn a "B" grade. All the rest earned grades ranging from "C" to "F" and the nation overall earned a "D" grade.

Still, it wasn't all bad news. Seven states -- Arizona, Indiana, Missouri, Idaho, Massachusetts, Utah and Wisconsin -- improved their grade year over year. However, Ohio's and Oklahoma's grades dropped.

"This year, we found a slight reduction in the rate of preterm birth," said Jennifer Howse, March of Dimes president. "Overall, that's encouraging. But as any good epidemiologist will tell you, one year does not a trend make."

Howse said she was concerned that the recession, including job losses and loss of medical benefits, could reverse the trend when the birth statistics from 2008 and 2009 are analyzed. "I think we're
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