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    Prematurity Report Card for Missouri

    Is Average Good Enough?

    St. Louis, Missouri, November 04, 2013 —

    The six-year overall improving trend in Missouri’s preterm birth rate helped give more babies a healthy start in life and contributed to the improvement in the national rate.  Missouri earned a “C” on the annual March of Dimes Prematurity Report Card released today.  The United States also received a “C” on the Report Card.  Grades are based on comparing each state’s and the nation’s 2012 preliminary preterm birth rates with the March of Dimes 2020 goal of 9.6 percent of all live births. The U.S. preterm birth rate is 11.5 percent, a decline of 10 percent from the peak of 12.8 percent in 2006.

    Since 2006, Missouri’s preterm birth rate has dropped from 12.8 percent to 11.6 percent.  This year, the state came in at 11.7 percent.  “Even with this slight decline, we have programs and partnerships in place to provide the necessary framework for the future of newborn health and we expect to see better rates in the coming years,” said Trina Ragain, State Director of Program Services, Advocacy and Government Affairs.

    According to Dr. F. Sessions Cole, Chief Medical Officer and Director of Newborn Medicine at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, “We must do more to ensure a healthy birth for the babies of Missouri.  Partnerships with our state health officials and local hospitals have helped us make newborn health a priority and lowered our 6-year preterm birth rate, making a difference in babies’ lives. Our goal is to reduce premature birth by at least 8 percent between 2009 and 2014.” 

    Missouri is part of a national trend toward improved preterm birth rates. Nationwide, the largest declines in premature birth occurred among babies born at 34 to 36 weeks of pregnancy.

    According to the Report Card, the factors below contribute to improved infant health.  Missouri earned a star on the report card for: 

    • Reducing the percent of uninsured women of child-bearing age (20.5%, down from 21.1%)
    • Lowering the late preterm birth rate (8.3%, down from 8.2%)
    • Reducing the percentage of women of childbearing age who smoke (25.4%, down from 28.6%)

    These improvements mean not just healthier babies, but also substantial savings in health care and economic costs to society.

    The March of Dimes Missouri Chapter supports Centering Pregnancy programs and the efforts of hospitals statewide to end early elective deliveries and help women have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies.  “We will continue to work together to improve access to health care, help women quit smoking and, through our Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait consumer education campaign, encourage women and health care providers to avoid scheduling a delivery before 39 weeks of pregnancy unless medically necessary,” said Ragain.

    Premature birth is a serious health problem that costs the United States more than $26 billion annually, according to the Institute of Medicine.  It is the leading cause of newborn death, and babies who survive an early birth often face the risk of lifetime health challenges, such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities and others.  At least 39 weeks are important to a baby’s health because many important organs, including the brain and lungs, are not completely developed until then.

    On November 17th, partners from around the world will mark the third World Prematurity Day in support of the Every Woman Every Child effort led by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. An estimated 15 million babies are born premature and of those more than a million die as a result of their early birth.

    From November 11-17, families and volunteers can observe World Prematurity Day by sending their friends a “virtual hug” to show that they care about premature babies. The “Hugs” campaign dramatizes the benefits of Kangaroo care, which is when parents cuddle their premature baby skin-to-skin. Kangaroo care is one of the most comforting things parents can do for their child. It helps keep the baby warm, stabilizes the baby’s heart rate and helps the baby gain weight.

    Prematurity Awareness events are happening throughout November, including:

    • Share a Hug – social media campaign November 11-17
    • Danforth Scientific Symposium – a partnership with Washington University School of Medicine on November 20
    • Perinatal Conference – a statewide conference for health care professionals in Columbia, MO on November 22  

    In 2013, the March of Dimes celebrates its 75th Anniversary and its ongoing work to help babies get a healthy start in life.  Early research led to the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines that all babies still receive.  Other breakthroughs include new treatments for premature infants and children with birth defects.  About 4 million babies are born each year in the United States, and all have benefitted March of Dimes life saving research and education.

    The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

    Report Card information is available here.

    Our Prematurity Awareness Month Partner:  Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation 


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