The nation’s rate of preterm birth—the largest contributor to infant death in the United States -- increased again in 2016, after nearly a decade of decline, earning the nation a “C” grade on the latest March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card.
The rate of preterm birth rose in states across the country for a second year in a row. More than 380,000 babies are born preterm in the U.S. each year, facing a greater likelihood of death before their first birthday, lifelong disabilities or chronic health conditions. An additional 8,000 babies were born prematurely in 2016 due to the increase in the preterm birth rate between 2015 and 2016, the March of Dimes says.
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The health of babies in the United States has taken a step backward as the nation’s preterm birth rate worsened for the first time in eight years, the March of Dimes said today. The U.S. earned a “C” grade on the latest March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card amidst widening differences in prematurity rates across different races and ethnicities.
“The 2016 March of Dimes Report Card demonstrates that there is an unfair burden of premature birth among specific racial and ethnic groups as well as geographic areas,” says Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. “The March of Dimes strives for a world where every baby has a fair chance, yet we see this is not the reality for many mothers and babies. Babies in this country have different chances of surviving and thriving simply based on the circumstances of their birth.”
The U.S. preterm birth rate went up from 9.57 to 9.63 in 2015, according to final data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Across the country, preterm birth rates were nearly 48 percent higher among black women and more than 15 percent higher among American Indian/Alaska Native women compared to white women.
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Portland, Oregon has the best preterm birth rate of the top 100 cities with the most births nationwide, while Shreveport, Louisiana has the worst, according to the 2015 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card, which for the first time graded cities and counties around the nation and revealed persistent racial, ethnic and geographic disparities within states.
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 early birth or its complications. Babies who survive an early birth often face serious and lifelong health problems, including breathing problems, jaundice, vision loss, cerebral palsy and intellectual delays.
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The Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the March of Dimes Foundation announce the launch of a new $10 million Prematurity Research Center here.
The March of Dimes will invest $10 million during the next five years to create a transdisciplinary center conducting team-based research, led by physicians and researchers at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, to discover the unknown causes of preterm birth and develop new strategies to prevent it. This March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania is part of a “medical Manhattan Project” of five such centers in the United States created by the foundation since 2011.
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The national preterm birth rate fell to 11.4 percent in 2013 – the lowest in 17 years -- meeting the federal Healthy People 2020 goal seven years early. Despite this progress, the U.S. still received a “C” on the 7th annual March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card because it fell short of the more-challenging 9.6 percent target set by the March of Dimes, the group said today.
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An estimated 15 million babies around the world are born premature each year and more than one million of them do not survive their early birth. Although the United States has seen sustained improvement in its preterm birth rate, it has one of the highest rates of preterm birth of any industrialized country.
Next month, organizations and individuals around the globe will observe Prematurity Awareness Month and World Prematurity Day. World-famous photographer Anne Geddes, and international superstars Thalia and Hilary Duff, will join other celebrity parents to spread the word that premature birth is a very serious health problem for babies worldwide.
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The U.S. preterm birth rate dropped for the fifth consecutive year in 2011 to 11.7 percent, the lowest in a decade, giving thousands more babies a healthy start in life and saving billions in health and social costs.
“These results demonstrate that many premature births can be prevented with the right policies and bold leadership,” said March of Dimes President Dr. Jennifer L. Howse. “Our national progress in reducing premature births over the past five years shows that when infant health becomes a priority, babies benefit. We must implement proven interventions and accelerate our investment in new research to prevent preterm birth so one day every baby will get a healthy start in life.”
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Celebrities from music, film, television, and sports are lending their star power to bring greater attention to the annual March for Babies, the March of Dimes premier fundraising event that takes place in 900 communities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico this coming weekend.
March for Babies supports cutting-edge research and community-based programs that help moms have full-term, healthy babies. March for Babies has been held annually since 1970, and the event has raised a combined total of $2 billion to help all babies get a healthy start in life. The goal for this year's event is to raise more than $110 million.
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