PENNSYLVANIA GETS A “C” ON MARCH OF DIMES PREMATURE BIRTH REPORT CARD Racial Disparities and Gaps Among Communities Highlighted

| Thursday, November 5, 2015

save print
e-mail

Philadelphia, PA, November 05, 2015 —

PHILADELPHIA, NOV. 5, 2015 – Pennsylvania earned a “C” on the 2015 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card, which for the first time graded the state’s cities with the greatest number of births and revealed persistent disparities between communities and among racial and ethnic groups.

Pennsylvania’s preterm birth rate was 9.4 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. But there are communities within Pennsylvania that are trailing the state’s rate. Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown and Erie 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 Jay S. Greenspan, MD, MBA, March of Dimes Program Services Board Chair.  “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 leading cause of death in the first month of life and many of our families fear losing their newborn. 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 an “A”, 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 to an early birth or 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 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.

The March of Dimes Board of Trustees set a new goal to lower the national preterm birth rate to 8.1 percent by 2020 and to 5.5 percent by 2030. Reaching the March of Dimes 2020 goal of 8.1 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.

The March of Dimes says the years of improvement in the US 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 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 including one at the University of Pennsylvania in collaboration with researchers at Magee-Womens Research Institute, to find the unknown causes of this still too-common problem and potential solutions.

The 2015 Premature Birth Report Card provides rates and grades for major cities or counties in each state, and Puerto Rico. It also provides preterm birth rates by race and ethnicity for each state and applies a disparity index that ranks states.  Pennsylvania ranked #40 on the disparity index with a score of 32 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. Among the nation’s top 100 cities with the most births, Portland, Oregon has the lowest preterm birth rate at 7.2 percent.

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.