Tennessee gets a ‘c’ in premature birth
Tennessee has received a C on the March of Dimes 2012 Premature Birth Report Card, tying the national average and outpacing most of its closest neighbors.
According to the March of Dimes, nearly 500,000 babies — about one in eight — are born too soon in the United States. This rate is higher than that of most developed nations, the agency reports.
The report card grades were derived by comparing each state’s rate of preterm birth to the March of Dimes 2020 goal of 9.6 percent.
Tennessee’s rate was 12.8 percent. Tennessee’s rates have improved from a high of 14.8 percent in 2006. The state has pledged to reduce the preterm birth rate by 8 percent by 2014.
The factors contributing to this year’s score include the rate of uninsured women, which remained the same at 18.1 percent, the rate of late preterm birth, which decreased from 9.2 percent to 9.1 percent and the percentage of women smokers, 23.7 percent.
The March of Dimes said these factors are important to reducing the rate of premature births because:
• Health care before and during pregnancy can help identify and manage conditions that contribute to preterm birth.
• The rising rates of early induction of labor and C-sections have been linked to increases in the rates of late-preterm births, which is defined at babies born at 34 to 36 weeks gestational age.
• Smoking increases a woman’s risk of giving birth to a premature baby and low birth weight babies.
Tennessee and North Carolina both scored a C this year. The Volunteer State’s neighbors to the north and south did not fare as well. Kentucky, South Carolina and Georgia each received a D grade and Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana received an F.
“Preterm birth is the leading cause of newborn death in the United States,” March of Dimes said. “We don’t yet understand all the factors that contribute to preterm birth. The nation must continue to make progress in research to identify causes and prevention strategies and on interventions and quality improvement initiatives to improve outcomes.”
- By Denise Williams, Tribune Staff Writer