Each year, the March of Dimes releases a “Premature Birth Report Card” for every state and territory in the nation to help raise public awareness and measure progress toward reducing premature births. Each state’s premature birth rate is compared to the March of Dimes goal and given a grade based on the comparison.
The premature birth rate is calculated by taking the number of premature births divided by the total number of live births with known gestational age and multiplied by 100. Idaho’s premature birth rate for 2014 was 8.1, which is equal to the March of Dimes goal for 2020. Idaho was one of only four states that received an “A” report card rating. The other states are Oregon, Washington and Vermont.
Premature birth is the leading cause of infant death in the United States and worldwide. A premature birth or preterm birth is a birth that happens at less than 37 weeks gestation. Babies born prematurely often experience serious and long-term health complications, such as breathing and feeding difficulties, vision and hearing impairment, cerebral palsy, and developmental delays.
The 2015 Premature Birth Report Card features a number of changes. For the first time, the report card graded major cities and counties and shed light on racial and ethnic differences in premature birth rates within states. A disparity index was used to rank states. This index provides a measure of the differences or disparities between racial and ethnic groups within a geographic area. Compared with other states and territories, Idaho ranked 20th on the index scale, which means 19 states had smaller differences in premature birth rates among racial and ethnic groups.
This year, the March of Dimes set new goals to lower the national premature birth rate to 8.1 percent by 2020 and to 5.5 percent by 2030. Even though Idaho is doing well, there is still room to improve. We can work toward this new goal by encouraging women to:
- Visit a doctor for a checkup before becoming pregnant for a healthy start
- Check to see that immunizations are current
- Eat healthy foods and take prenatal vitamins that contain folic acid
- Stop/Don’t start smoking, drinking or taking street drugs or prescription drugs that are not prescribed
- Reduce stress
- Visit a doctor for prenatal care early on in pregnancy and throughout the pregnancy
- Seek medical attention for any warning signs of early labor
November is Prematurity Awareness Month. For more information, visit www.marchofdimes.org