Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
In 2013, the rate of preterm births in the United States fell to its lowest level in 17 years – meeting the federal government Healthy People 2020 goal seven years ahead of schedule.
However, meeting this goal isn’t enough and the rate of preterm births can be brought down even more, according to the March of Dimes.
“Achieving the Healthy People 2020 goal is reason for celebration, but the US still has one of the highest rates of preterm birth of any high resource country and we must change that,” said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes, in a recent statement. “We are investing in a network of five prematurity research centers to find solutions to this still too-common, costly, and serious problem.”
The preterm birth rate in 2013 was 11.7 percent, the equivalent of over 450,000 babies. The March of Dimes said that 231,000 fewer babies have been born preterm since the rate’s highest point in 2006 due to treatment measures put in place by states, conserving $11.9 billion in health care and other expenses. Medical costs for a premature baby are approximately $54,000 as opposed to $4,000 for a full-term, healthy newborn, according to the organization.
In addition to costs, health officials are concerned about the rate of preterm birth because it is the top cause of newborn death, and even babies who make it through an early birth often face substantial and occasionally lifelong health challenges, such as breathing complications, jaundice, developmental conditions, and cerebral palsy.
Recent attempts to lessen the amount of babies born early have centered on studying the triggers and finding protections against preterm birth. Public health actions have also targeted behavioral changes that can reduce risk, such as having expectant mother quit smoking. The March of Dimes has also campaigned strongly against the use of optional, non-medically-necessary births before 39 weeks.
A recent report card released by the organization gave the US a ‘C’ grade when it came to preterm births. The report card also broke down the rate by US state, with five states earning an ‘A’, 20 states earning a ‘B’, 20 states getting a ‘C’, two states and Washington DC getting s ‘D’ and three states plus Puerto Rico getting an ‘F’.
The report card also revealed that 30 states and the District of Columbia lowered the percentage of uninsured women capable of having children in 2013. Thirty states and Puerto Rico also lowered the rate of babies born between 34 and 36 weeks gestation.