Massachusetts Achieves Substantial Reduction in Preterm Birth
State Receives March of Dimes Virginia Apgar AwardWestborough, MA, November 12, 2013
Massachusetts has received the March of Dimes Virginia Apgar Prematurity Campaign Leadership Award for lowering its preterm birth rate by more than 8 percent since 2009.
The Virginia Apgar Award is given to recognize states that accepted and met a challenge from the March of Dimes and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) to lower their preterm birth rates 8 percent between 2009 and 2014. Based on 2012 preliminary data, Massachusetts has reduced its rate of preterm birth from 10.9% in 2009 to 10.0% in 2012—an 8.3% reduction. The March of Dimes Massachusetts Chapter will officially present the award to the Governor Deval Patrick Administration at a Prematurity Awareness Month event on November 14 at 11 a.m. in the Great Hall of the State House.
The award is named in honor of Virginia Apgar, MD, who developed the five-point APGAR score to evaluate an infant’s health at birth, and who served as vice president for medical affairs of the March of Dimes.
“This is a significant step forward in promoting healthy pregnancy and healthy babies in our communities,” said Department of Public Health Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett. “We know the immediate and long-term health impacts that can result from preterm birth, and we’re proud to partner with the March of Dimes, ASTHO, and health care providers across the state to make preterm birth as rare as possible in Massachusetts.”
Health officials in Massachusetts are working closely with March of Dimes staff and volunteers on the “Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait” educational campaign, which urges hospitals, health care providers, and patients to follow the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists guidelines and reduce medically unnecessary elective deliveries before 39 weeks of pregnancy. The final weeks of pregnancy are crucial to a baby’s health because many vital organs, including the brain and lungs, are still developing.
The March of Dimes says that if every state met the 8 percent challenge, it would push the nation’s preterm birth rate down to about 11 percent; giving an estimated 40,000 more babies a healthy start in life. Such a change could save about $2 billion in health care and socio-economic costs, the March of Dimes says.
Preterm birth (before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy) is a serious health problem that costs the United States more than $26 billion annually, according to a 2006 Institute of Medicine report. It is the leading cause of newborn death, and babies who survive an early birth often face the risk of lifelong health challenges, such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities and others.