THURSDAY, Jan. 31 (HealthDay News) -- The rate of premature births has declined to 11.7 percent, the lowest rate in a decade, according to the March of Dimes 2012 Premature Birth Report Card.
The March of Dimes Report Card compares each state's preterm birth rate with the goal set by the March of Dimes of lowering the rate to 9.6 percent of all live births by 2020. The report tracks states' progress towards lowering their preterm birth rates and assesses contributory factors.
According to the report, the U.S. preterm birth rate dropped for the fifth consecutive year in 2011, to 11.7 percent, with declines seen in every racial and ethnic group. The largest declines in premature birth occurred among babies born at 34 to 36 weeks of pregnancy. Vermont, Oregon, New Hampshire, and Maine met the 9.6 percent preterm birth rate goal and consequently earned an "A" on their Report Cards. As a whole, the United States earned a "C" on the Report Card, and 45 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico saw improvements in their preterm birth rates in 2012. The improved rates are likely due to an increase in successful programs and interventions. The March of Dimes estimates potential savings of about $3 billion in health care and costs to society from the reduction in premature births.
"These results demonstrate that many premature births can be prevented with the right policies and bold leadership," Jennifer L. Howse, Ph.D., president of the March of Dimes, said in a statement. "Our national progress in reducing premature births over the past five years shows that when infant health becomes a priority, babies benefit."