State gets a ‘C’ on premature births

Oklahoma earned a “C” on the 2015 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card, which for the first time graded the state’s counties and revealed persistent disparities between communities and among racial and ethnic groups.

Oklahoma’s preterm birth rate was 10.3 percent in 2014, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The rate was higher than the new March of Dimes 2020 goal of 8.1 percent. Tulsa and Cleveland counties had rates that were higher than the statewide rate.

“This detailed information will show us where we have the greatest need and allow us to meet the unique needs of each community,” said Dr. Mary Anne McCaffree, neonatologist, OU Children’s Hospital. “Our state is not doing as well as we could in preventing premature births and too many of our babies must fight to overcome the health challenges of an early birth. Premature birth is the number one killer of babies and many of our families still face that reality.”

Oklahoma ranked 26th on the disparity index with a score of 24 to indicate the gaps between racial and ethnic groups in its preterm birth rate. Oklahoma’s preterm births have decreased 8 percent over the last 5 years in part due to the success of the Every Week Counts statewide collaborative to eliminate non-medically indicated scheduled cesarean births and inductions before 39 weeks.

The national preterm birth rate was 9.6 percent in 2014.

The United States earned a “C” on the 2015 Report Card. The U.S. preterm birth rate ranks among the worst of high-resource countries, the March of Dimes says. Worldwide, 15 million babies are born preterm, and nearly one million die due to an early birth or its complications. Babies who survive an early birth may face serious and lifelong health problems, including breathing problems, jaundice, vision loss, cerebral palsy and intellectual delays.

The 2015 Premature Birth Report Card provides rates and grades for major cities or counties in each state, and Puerto Rico. It also provides preterm birth rates by race and ethnicity for each state and applies a disparity index that ranks states.

Maine ranked first on the index with the smallest gaps between racial and ethnic groups in its preterm birth rate, while the District of Columbia had the largest gaps. Among the nation’s top 100 cities with the most births, Portland, Oregon, has the lowest preterm birth rate at 7.2 percent.

The March of Dimes Board of Trustees set a new goal to lower the national preterm birth rate to 8.1 percent by 2020 and to 5.5 percent by 2030. Reaching the March of Dimes 2020 goal of 8.1 will mean that 210,000 fewer babies will be born preterm and achieving the 2030 goal will mean 1.3 million fewer babies will be born preterm saving nearly $70 billion, the March of Dimes estimates.

For information, visit marchofdimes.org.