New Haven Leads State in Preventing Preterm Birth

| Thursday, November 5, 2015

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Leigh-Anne Lefurge, March of Dimes, (860) 815-9353, llefurge@marchofdimes.org

Connecticut Earns a “B” on March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card

New Haven, CT, —

(November 5, 2015)
-- New Haven is leading the state in preventing preterm birth and giving more babies a healthy start in life. Its preterm birth rate was 9.1 percent in 2013, the most recent year for which statistics are available, earning a “B” on the 2015 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card. For the first time, the Report Card graded the state’s cities with the most births and revealed persistent disparities between communities and among racial and ethnic groups.  Statewide, the preterm birth rate was 9.2 percent in 2014, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, earning a Connecticut a “B.”

“Yale-New Haven Hospital has successfully implemented the March of Dimes-supported initiative that reduces non-medically indicated elective deliveries prior to 39 weeks gestation, as well as the statewide quality improvement effort to increase administration of progesterone treatment for women at higher risk for preterm birth. But in addition to these efforts, New Haven has also benefitted from a very active and well-coordinated coalition of engaged local partners committed to improving the health and wellbeing of women, children, and their families,” said Maria Damiani, Director of Women’s Health/Maternal and Child Health, New Haven Health Department.

Damiani notes that focused interventions with other local services, health care organizations, and human services agencies, helping women receive early care, and a citywide, integrated approach to holistic family health may be contributing to a lower preterm birth rate within the city.

The federally-funded New Haven Healthy Start program of The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven has implemented a care coordination model in the city for over 17 years that has brought together the city's major primary care service providers (Yale-New Haven Hospital, Cornel-Scott Hill Health Center, Fair Haven Community Health Center), along with the New Haven Health Department and other community organizations; all working together in strong partnership to improve maternal and child health and birth outcomes. “We have implemented a no-wrong door system (NHHS program) across the city, with the help of a universal intake database, a strong care coordination network coordinated and maintained by our successful federal Healthy Start program, insurance and healthcare enrollment assistance, and a referral system that includes facilitated access to social services and support for basic needs, as well as a strong behavioral and oral health care network,” said Damiani.

Kenn Harris, Director of the New Haven Healthy Start Program, has also been facilitating an ongoing learning collaborative that brings together professionals and residents across New Haven to regularly discuss issues related to race/racism, health equity and the experience of discrimination that is often rooted in complex systems and policies that sustain differential access to basic resources on the basis of race/ethnicity. “NHHS is one of 100 programs across the country that has an approach that is rooted in a life course perspective as well as one that is viewed through a social determinants of health lens.” “New Haven has had this federally-funded initiative for almost 18 years; it represents ‘committed partnerships’, ‘constancy’ and an ‘established credibility’ at the community level.”

“It really helps when our leadership is committed to reducing inequities. Our mayor, Toni Harp, really understands health equity and to this end continues to support programs and services that can promote change in our city,” said Damiani.

“Not only does New Haven boast a richness of comprehensive services and programs focused on maternal, child, and family health, but what makes New Haven unique is the extent to which the local partners have taken the time and effort to create strong inclusive relationships and learn each other’s’ systems of care, so that they could truly leverage resources and create an integrated and interdisciplinary city-wide approach to improving health outcomes,”  said Jordana Frost, State Director of Program Services, March of Dimes Connecticut Chapter.

The March of Dimes Board of Trustees has set a new and higher preterm birth standard of 8.1 percent by 2020 and 5.5 percent by 2030 for the 2015 Premature Birth Report Card.  Reaching the March of Dimes 2020 goal of 8.1 percent will mean that 210,000 fewer babies will be born preterm, and achieving the 2030 goal will mean 1.3 million fewer babies will be born preterm, saving nearly $70 billion, the March of Dimes estimates.

Of note on the Report Card are communities within Connecticut that are trailing behind the state’s rate. Bridgeport, Hartford, Stamford and Waterbury all had higher preterm birth rates than the statewide rate.

Connecticut ranked 11th on the disparity index with a score of 18 to indicate the gaps between racial and ethnic groups in its preterm birth 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 Christopher Morosky, MD, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Ob-Gyn at UConn Health Center, and co-chair, Program Services Committee for the March of Dimes Connecticut Chapter. “We’re proud that our state does a better than average job of preventing premature births, but despite the progress, premature birth is the number one killer of babies and not all of our families are sharing in our success. There are large gaps in the preterm birth rate between communities in our state, and racial and ethnic disparities persist.”

The US earned a “C” on the 2015 Report Card. Idaho, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington earned “As,” 19 states received a “B,” 18 states and the District of Columbia got a “C,” six others a “D,” and Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Puerto Rico received an “F.” The U.S. preterm birth rate ranks among the worst of high-resource countries, the March of Dimes says. Worldwide, 15 million babies are born preterm, and nearly one million die due an early birth and its complications. Babies who survive an early birth face serious and lifelong health problems, including breathing problems, jaundice, vision loss, cerebral palsy and intellectual delays.

The long term trend of slow, yet sustained success in the fight to give more babies a healthy start in life is encouraging, the March of Dimes says. Thousands of early births were avoided, saving babies’ lives and health as well as millions of dollars in health care costs. 

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.

The March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign is guided by a Steering Committee of six leadership organizations. In addition to the March of Dimes, members include: the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP); the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG); the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP); the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO); the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric & Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN); and the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO).

The March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health.  For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.org or nacersano.org. Find us on Facebook and Twitter.

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