UNDATED (March of Dimes) - The five-year improving trend in Arkansas' preterm birth rate, helped give more babies a healthy start in life re-energizing local prematurity prevention efforts. Arkansas again earned a "D" on the report card.
"Although our rate of preterm births has improved in recent years, we must do more to ensure a healthy birth for the babies of Arkansas. Partnerships with our state health officials and local hospitals have helped us make newborn health a priority and lowered our preterm birth rate, making a difference in babies' lives," said Dr. Whit Hall, Neonatologist at UAMS and 2013 March of Dimes Citizen of the Year. "Earlier this year, we formed a partnership with Arkansas Health Department to ensure more babies are born healthy. Our goal is to reduce premature birth by at least 8 percent between 2009 and 2014."
Here, in Arkansas the March of Dimes is supporting and partnering with organizations just as ASTHO, Medicaid and Blue Cross Blue Shield to lower the number of non-medically necessitated re-term births. March of Dimes is dedicated to help women have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies.
Arkansas is part of a national trend toward improved preterm birth rates. Nationwide, the largest declines in preterm birth occurred among babies born at 34 to 36 weeks of pregnancy, but the improvement was across the board. Every racial and ethnic group benefitted, and the preterm birth rates for babies born at all stages of pregnancy improved.
Since 2006, Arkansas' preterm birth rate has dropped. In Arkansas, the rate of late preterm births is 13.2%, the rate of women smoking is 29.7% and the rate of uninsured women is 28.2%.
These factors contribute to improved infant health preterm birth in Arkansas.
• Reducing the percent of uninsured women of child-bearing age;
• Lowering the late preterm birth rate
• Support smoking cessation programs so women will not smoke during pregnancies.
The March of Dimes attributed the improved rates to an expansion of successful programs and interventions, including actions by state health officials here and in 47 other states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, who formally set goals to lower their preterm birth rates 8 percent by 2014 from their 2009 rate.
"We will continue to work together to improve access to health care, help women quit smoking and, through our Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait consumer education campaign, encourage women and health care providers to avoid scheduling a delivery before 39 weeks of pregnancy unless medically necessary," said Dr. Whit Hall.
The United States again received a "C" on the March of Dimes Report Card. Grades are based on comparing each state's and the nation's 2011 preliminary preterm birth rates with the March of Dimes 2020 goal of 9.6 percent of all live births. The U.S. preterm birth rate is 11.7 percent, a decline of more than 8 percent from the peak of 12.8 percent in 2006.
The Report Card information for the U.S. and states will be available online at: marchofdimes.com/reportcard.
Preterm birth, birth before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy, is a serious health problem that costs the United States more than $26 billion annually, according to the Institute of Medicine. It is the leading cause of newborn death, and babies who survive an early birth often face the risk of lifetime health challenges, such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities and others. Even babies born just a few weeks early have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than full-term infants. At least 39 weeks of pregnancy are important to a baby's health because many important organs, including the brain and lungs, are not completely developed until then.
On November 17th, partners from around the world will mark the Second World Prematurity Day in support of the Every Woman Every Child effort led by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. An estimated 15 million babies are born preterm and of those more than a million die as a result of their early birth, according to an October 2009 March of Dimes report on the global toll of preterm birth.
Prematurity Awareness events are happening throughout November, including a Lotus Flower release to honor, celebrate and commemorate the life and birth of babies all over the state. On Saturday, November 17th, the Arkansas March of Dimes is holding an awareness and family friendly event at Lakewood Village Fountain in North Little Rock (2851 Lakewood Village Drive, North Little Rock, AR), with hundreds of families and friends of premature babies. The event will start at 4:00 pm and run through 5:30pm. A kid zone with face painting and playground time will be featured, along with the poignant Lotus flower release to conclude the ceremony. Lotus flowers can be reserved for $10/flower to honor or commemorate a child in your life. Call 501-663-3100 or log onto www.marchofdimes.com/Arkansas for more details regarding this event.
The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org. Find them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.