Filed Under:  Health & Wellness

La. gets an ‘F’ for preterm birth rates from March of Dimes

20th November 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Fritz Esker
Contributing Writer

The March of Dimes released its 2017 Premature Birth Report Card, and the numbers are not good for the United States or the state of Louisiana.

Preterm birth is the largest contributor to infant death in the United States. After nearly a decade of declining rates in the country as a whole, the rates of preterm birth increased for the second year in a row in 2017, rising to 9.8 from 9.6 in 2016. The March of Dimes issued a “C” grade for the U.S.

The state of Louisiana, which has a 12.3 percent preterm birth rate, received an “F” grade on the report card.

Preterm births are defined as births occurring with less than 37 weeks of gestation based on the obstetric estimate of gestational age. The March of Dimes assigned grades by comparing a state’s 2016 preterm birth rate with the organization’s goal of an 8.1 percent rate by 2020.pre-term-babies-112017

The data for the study came from the National Center for Health Statistics’ (NCHS) natality files. Calculations were conducted by the March of Dimes Perinatal Data Center. Any preterm birth rate higher than 11.5 percent earned a grade of “F.”

Louisiana was one of four states to receive a grade of “F.” Puerto Rico also received a grade of “F.”

Four states (Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont and Washington) received an “A;” 13 received a “B;” 18 states received a “C;” and 11 states and the District of Columbia received a “D.” Irvine, California had the lowest rate of any city at 5.8 percent, and Cleveland, Ohio had the highest rate at 14.9 percent.

Louisiana parishes to receive a grade of “F” for preterm birth rates are Caddo (17%), East Baton Rouge (12.3%), Lafayette (11.6%), and Orleans (11.9%). Despite the “F” grades, the percentages for Caddo, East Baton Rouge and Orleans improved since last year. Jefferson (10.9%) and St. Tammany (10.4%) both received “D” grades, but their percentages had worsened since last year.

The percentages of preterm live births in Louisiana were 9.1 percent for Hispanics, 10.3 percent for Asian/Pacific Islanders, 10.6 percent for American Indians, 10.6 percent for whites, and 15.6 percent for African Americans.

Across the country, African-American women are 49 percent more likely to have preterm births than white women and American Indian/Alaskan Native women are 18 percent more likely to have preterm births than white women.

In Louisiana and the United States as a whole, race and socioeconomic factors played a role in preterm birth rates. But the numbers were bad among all ethnicities.

“The 2017 March of Dimes Report Card demonstrates that moms and babies in this country face a higher risk of premature birth based on race and zip code,” said Stacey D. Stewart, president of the March of Dimes. “We see that preterm birth rates worsened in 43 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and among all racial/ethnic groups. This is an unacceptable trend that requires immediate attention.”

More than 380,000 babies are born preterm in the U.S. each year. Aside from a greater likelihood of infant death, these babies also face increased odds of lifelong disabilities or chronic health conditions like jaundice, cerebral palsy, vision problems and intellectual delays.

In a press release, the March of Dimes stated that there is no one cause of preterm birth and no simple solution to the problem. Some of their efforts to fight it include “Go Before Your Show,” a public education effort aimed at increasing awareness of the importance of early entry into prenatal care. “One Key Question” aims to increase the health of families before, during and after pregnancy by ensuring fair access to reproductive health education.

Scientific research is also an important component in combating premature births. March of Dimes researchers are currently looking into preterm birth causes such as access to healthcare, housing, employment status, neighborhood safety, food security and household income.

“In addition to discovering new ways to prevent premature birth, and improve the care that women receive, it’s essential that we improve the broader social context for health,” said Paul E. Jarris, MD, MBA, and chief medical officer for the March of Dimes. “Only then will our nation be able to level the playing field for mothers and babies in every community.”

This article originally published in the November 20, 2017 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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