| Thursday, November 5, 2015

Media Contacts

save print

Racial Disparities and Gaps Among Communities Highlighted

Baltimore, MD, November 05, 2015 —

Maryland earned a “C” on the 2015 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card, which for the first time graded the state’s cities and revealed persistent disparities between communities and among racial and ethnic groups. The 2015 Premature Birth Report Card provides rates and grades for major cities or counties in each state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. It also provides preterm birth rates by race and ethnicity for each area and applies a disparity index ranking.

Babies who survive an early birth face serious and lifelong health problems, including breathing problems, jaundice, vision loss, cerebral palsy, and intellectual delays. Maryland’s preterm birth rate was 10.1 percent in 2014, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The rate was worse than the new March of Dimes 2020 goal of 8.1 percent. Other communities within Maryland are also trailing behind the state’s rate. Baltimore County, Prince George’s County, Howard County, and the city of Baltimore all had preterm birth rates that were worse than the statewide rate.

“This detailed information will show us where we have the greatest need and allow us to meet the unique needs of each community,” said Steven J. Czinn, M.D., professor and chair of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics. “Our state is not doing as well as we should in preventing premature births and too many of our babies must fight to overcome the health challenges of an early birth. Premature birth is the number one killer of babies and many of our families still face that fear. There are large gaps in the preterm birth rate between communities in Maryland. And, racial and ethnic disparities persist.”

Maryland ranked seventh on the national disparity index with a score of 16 to indicate the gaps between racial and ethnic groups in its preterm birth rate. Maine ranked first on the index with the smallest gaps between racial and ethnic groups in its preterm birth rate, while the District of Columbia had the largest gaps. Prematurity remains especially high among African Americans. In Maryland, African American babies are 44 percent more likely than Caucasian and Hispanic babies to be born too soon.

The U.S. earned a “C” on the 2015 Report Card. The national preterm birth rate was 9.6 percent in 2014, meeting the March of Dimes 2020 goal early, the organization’s leaders announced as they set a new and higher standard for the 2015 Premature Birth Report Card. Report Card information will be available at:

The March of Dimes says the years of improvement in the U.S. preterm birth rate came through bold leadership and the implementation of programs and policies by state and local health departments, hospitals, and health care providers. Also, a more accurate method of measuring pregnancy length recently was adopted by the National Center for Health Statistics. The new measurement already is used by most other high-resource countries.

The March of Dimes says it recognizes that continued research to identify new medical advances to prevent preterm birth is necessary in order to reach the new goal. The March of Dimes has invested in a nationwide network of five new prematurity research centers to find the unknown causes of this still too-common problem and potential solutions.

Locally, the March of Dimes is focusing its resources on fighting premature birth in the areas with the greatest need. In 2015, the Foundation has invested nearly $430,000 to support community programs in the Maryland-National Capital Area.

Local March of Dimes community programs include:

  • Stork’s Nest®, an incentive-based, prenatal health promotion program for low-income, pregnant women. A partnership of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and the March of Dimes, the program encourages women to make and keep prenatal care appointments and participate in prenatal education classes. In return, the expectant mothers receive necessary items such as maternity clothes, layettes, and baby products at minimal or no cost.

Stork's Nests are in the following Maryland locations:

  • Baltimore Medical System at St. Agnes, Baltimore
  • Baltimore Washington Medical Center, Baltimore
  • Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Baltimore
  • University of Maryland Medical System, Baltimore
  • Dorchester County Health Department, Cambridge
  • CenteringPregnancy®, a model of group prenatal healthcare, provides healthcare assessment, education and support to women.

The program is offered at the following Maryland locations:

  • Baltimore Medical System at St. Agnes, Baltimore
  • Baltimore Washington Medical Center, Baltimore
  • Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Baltimore

Worldwide, 15 million babies are born preterm, and nearly one million die due to an early birth or its complications. According to the March of Dimes, America’s preterm birth rate ranks among the worst of high-resource countries. On November 17, the March of Dimes and organizations from around the world will mark the 5th Annual World Prematurity Day. The World Prematurity Network (WPN), a global coalition of consumer and parent groups working together to raise awareness and prevent premature birth in their countries, is calling for action to prevent preterm birth and improve care for babies born too soon.

Local prematurity awareness activities include:

  • Throughout November, local March of Dimes staff and volunteers will visit nearly 30 hospitals for a “Day of Gratitude” to thank Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) doctors, nurses and other health care professionals for all that they do every day for fragile newborns.
  • The March of Dimes Prematurity Prevention Conference will be held November 17 and 18, 2015, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Crystal City, Virginia. Attendees will include leading public health officials, doctors, nurses, and other stakeholders who will discuss the latest interventions and quality improvement programs. Former U.S. Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin, M.D. will present the March of Dimes “Prematurity Campaign Roadmap,” which is an effort to lower the nation’s preterm birth rate. Visit for more information about the conference. 
  • On November 17, the Capital Wheel at National Harbor will again shine in purple to symbolize hope for a healthy start for more babies. 

To learn more about Prematurity Awareness Month and World Prematurity Day, please visit From there, share stories and videos about babies born too soon. The page features an interactive world map showing the home place for each story told.

About The March of Dimes

The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide and its premier event, March for Babies, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies. For the latest resources and information, visit or Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Contact:  Michele Murphy-Hedrick, (703) 798-6172, [email protected]

About March of Dimes

March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies. We support research, lead programs and provide education and advocacy so that every baby can have the best possible start. Building on a successful 80-year legacy of impact and innovation, we empower every mom and every family.

Visit or for more information. Visit for comfort and support. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter.