Oklahoma’s grade and preterm birth rate remains a “C” on the 2016 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card. The state did improve its rank by eight spots from 26 to 18 in disparities among racial and ethnic groups.
Grades for seven states declined in this year’s report. Twenty states and the District of Columbia joined Oklahoma with a grade of “C”. Four states earned an “A”, 16 states received a “B”, six states and Puerto Rico got a “D” and three states – Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi – received an “F”.
“Although Oklahoma is making progress, this does not mean victory. Each year thousands of our families are not sharing in this success. No baby should have to battle the health consequences of an early birth,” said Dr. Mary Anne McCaffree, neonatologist, The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center and Chair of the March of Dimes Maternal Child Health Committee and Oklahoma Health Improvement Plan Child Health Group. “All babies, in Oklahoma and everywhere deserve a healthy start in life.”
Overall, the health of babies in the United States has taken a step backward as the nation’s preterm birth rate worsened for the first time in eight years. The United States earned a “C” grade on the latest report card amidst widening differences in prematurity rates across different races and ethnicities.
“Americans lead the world in medical research and care, yet the U.S. preterm birth rate still ranks near the bottom of high-resource nations,” Dr. Howse said. “We can do better by mobilizing resources and driving best practices and policies to ensure that no mother or baby falls through the cracks.”
Dr. Howse urged broader use of proven interventions in the most-challenged communities: for example, an initiative by the March of Dimes, Preparing for a Lifetime, and partners in Oklahoma to increase access to progesterone shots for women with a history of prior, spontaneous, singleton preterm births prompted Oklahoma’s Medicaid program, SoonerCare, to implement policy changes expanding coverage of Makena and vaginal progesterone that have helped more babies have full-term births.
The U.S. preterm birth rate went up from 9.57 to 9.63 percent in 2015, according to final data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Across the country, preterm birth rates were nearly 48 percent higher among black women and more than 15 percent higher among American Indian/Alaska Native women compared to white women.
“The 2016 March of Dimes Report Card demonstrates that there is an unfair burden of premature birth among specific racial and ethnic groups as well as geographic areas,” says Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. “The March of Dimes strives for a world where every baby has a fair chance, yet we see this is not the reality for many mothers and babies. Babies in this country have different chances of surviving and thriving simply based on the circumstances of their birth.”
Premature birth (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) is the leading cause of death of babies in the United States. Babies who survive an early birth often face serious and lifelong health problems, including breathing problems, jaundice, vision loss, cerebral palsy and intellectual delays. In addition to the human toll, preterm birth accounts for more than $26 billion annually in avoidable medical and societal costs, according to the National Academy of Medicine.