U.S. Preterm Birth Rate Shows Five-Year Improvement


The U.S. preterm birth rate decreased for the fifth year in a row last year to 11.7 percent, according to evaluations by the March of Dimes.
The numbers are the lowest in a decade, showing progress in allowing thousands of babies a healthy start in life while saving billions of dollars in health and social costs. The March of Dimes Report Card program compares states’ preterm birth rates to the charity group’s goal of lowering the rate to 9.6 percent of all live births by 2020, according to a recent article.
The article said 15 million babies around the world are born too early every year. More than one million die as a result of their early births. The U.S. is ranked 131st out of 184 countries, according to a May 2012 global report on premature birth issued by the March of Dimes and several partners.
Vermont, Oregon, New Hampshire, and Maine earned an “A” on their respective evaluations. The U.S. average preterm birth rate improved but got a “C” on the report card. The U.S. preterm birth rate spiked in 2006 at 12.8 percent, after more than two decades of a steady increase. It fell to 11.7 percent last year, the lowest in a decade.
Healthier babies also means a possible savings of about $3 billion in health care and economic costs, according to the article. Researchers attributed the improved rates to the expansion of programs, including actions by state health officials in 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
The biggest drops in premature births were found among babies born at 34 to 36 weeks of pregnancy. Every racial and ethnic group showed improvement, with fewer preterm babies born at all stages of pregnancy.