The U.S. preterm birth rate has hit a 15-year low, dropping for the sixth consecutive year in 2012 to 11.5 percent, according to a new March of Dimes report card.
Alaska, California, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon and Vermont all earned an "A" on the organization's 2013 Premature Birth Report Card for meeting or exceeding the March of Dimes 9.6 percent goal. The nation as a whole earned a "C."
Since 2006, the March of Dimes estimates about 176,000 fewer babies have been born too soon because of improvements in the preterm birth rate, potentially saving about $9 billion in health and societal costs.
"Although we have made great progress in reducing our nation's preterm birth rate from historic highs, the U.S. still has the highest rate of preterm birth of any industrialized country. We must continue to invest in preterm birth prevention because every baby deserves a healthy start in life," said March of Dimes President Jennifer L. Howse, M.D.
"A premature birth costs businesses about 12 times as much as uncomplicated healthy birth. As a result, premature birth is a major driver of health insurance costs not only for employers."
The U.S. preterm birth rate peaked in 2006 at 12.8 percent, after rising steadily for more than two decades, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Among the new report's findings:
- The 2012 rate is a 10 percent improvement since the 2006 peak and the best rate since 1998.
- When compared to 2006, almost all states had lower preterm birth rates in 2012.
- The 2012 preterm birth rate among non-Hispanic black infants remains the highest of all groups at 16.8 percent, down from 18.5 percent in 2006 and the lowest in more than 20 years.
- The gap between blacks and whites is narrowing, but the preterm birth rate among non-Hispanic blacks is still more than 1.5 times the rate of non-Hispanic whites.
- The District of Columbia and 31 states had improvements in their rates between 2011 and 2012, earning seven — Alaska, California, District of Columbia, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky and New Jersey – better grades.
- Nineteen states earned a "B," 17 states and the District of Columbia received a "C, " five states got a "D," and only three states and Puerto Rico received an "F" on the report card.
Preterm birth — defined before 37 weeks of pregnancy — costs the nation more than $26 billion annually, according to the Institute of Medicine. It is the leading cause of newborn death, and preemies often face increased risks for serious and often lifelong health conditions, such as breathing problems, jaundice, developmental delays, vision loss, and cerebral palsy.
© 2022 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.