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U.S. Preterm Birth Rate Still Only Merits a D

March of Dimes report notes progress in many states but says only Vermont earns a B

TUESDAY, Nov. 17 (HealthDay News) -- In terms of premature births, the United States earned a D for the second consecutive year, according to a report issued Nov. 17 by the March of Dimes.

During the past year, only seven states improved their performance by one letter grade and two scored more poorly than they did the previous year, according to the report. No states received an A, and only Vermont received a B. Grade criteria were determined by comparing preterm birth rates to the national Healthy People 2010 preterm birth objective: 7.6 percent of all live births.

Still, researchers found that 33 states and the District of Columbia reduced the percentage of women of childbearing age who smoke, 21 states and the District of Columbia reduced the percent of uninsured women of childbearing age, and 27 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico lowered the late preterm birth rate.

"We have a long way to go before all babies in America get a healthy start in life, but the good news is that many states are taking action to prevent preterm birth and help women have full-term pregnancies," Jennifer L. Howse, M.D., president of the March of Dimes in White Plains, N.Y., said in a statement. "We are working closely with officials at hospitals and health insurance providers to identify successful programs that can be shared with others to help us continue along a path of improvement."

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