Oklahoma preterm birth rates remain steady in March of Dimes Report Card

Posted on: 11/9/16


Oklahoma’s grade and preterm birth rate remains a C on the 2016 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card. The state did improve its rank by eight spots from 26 to 18 in disparities among racial and ethnic groups.

Grades for seven states declined in this year’s report. Twenty states and the District of Columbia joined Oklahoma with a grade of C. Four states earned an A, 16 states received a B, six states and Puerto Rico got a D and three states – Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi – received an F.

 “Although Oklahoma is making progress, this does not mean victory. Each year thousands of our families are not sharing in this success. No baby should have to battle the health consequences of an early birth,” said Dr. Mary Anne McCaffree, neonatologist, The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center and chair of the March of Dimes Maternal Child Health Committee and Oklahoma Health Improvement Plan Child Health Group. “All babies, in Oklahoma and everywhere deserve a healthy start in life.”

Overall, the health of babies in the U.S. has taken a step backward as the nation’s preterm birth rate worsened for the first time in eight years. The U.S. earned a C grade on the latest 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.

“Americans lead the world in medical research and care, yet the U.S. preterm birth rate still ranks near the bottom of high-resource nations,” Dr. Howse said. “We can do better by mobilizing resources and driving best practices and policies to ensure that no mother or baby falls through the cracks.”

Dr. Howse urged broader use of proven interventions in the most-challenged communities: for example, an initiative by the March of Dimes, Preparing for a Lifetime, and partners in Oklahoma to increase access to progesterone shots for women with a history of prior, spontaneous, singleton preterm births prompted Oklahoma’s Medicaid program, SoonerCare, to implement policy changes expanding coverage of Makena® and vaginal progesterone that have helped more babies have full-term births.  

Premature birth (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) is the leading cause of death of babies in the U.S. Babies who survive an early birth often face serious and lifelong health problems, including breathing problems, jaundice, vision loss, cerebral palsy and intellectual delays. In addition to the human toll, preterm birth accounts for more than $26 billion annually in avoidable medical and societal costs, according to the National Academy of Medicine.

The Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility initiative works with multiple partners to promote healthy outcomes for mothers and babies by addressing priority areas, including preterm birth. To learn about ways to help ensure the health and safety of Oklahoma’s smallest residents and to access relevant resources, click here or call (405) 271-4480.

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