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Florida's preterm birth rate rises at 10.1%, earning state 'C' grade

Jacksonville/Duval County rate higher than state, earns 'F'

Preterm birth rates have dropped for the sixth year in a row nationwide, but they remain high in these 10 states with the worst premature birth rates, according to this year's March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card.
Preterm birth rates have dropped for the sixth year in a row nationwide, but they remain high in these 10 states with the worst premature birth rates, according to this year's March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card. (iStock)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida’s preterm birth rate is higher from a year ago at 10.1 percent, according to the 2017 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card. The state received a “C” grade on the annual report. 

The data is worse for Duval County, with a rate of 11.5 percent and an "F" grade. (See full Florida report)

Georgia's premature birth rate as 11.2 percent, earning the state a "D." Chatham County, where Savannah is located, had the highest rate of premature births in the state -- 12 percent -- earning the county an "F." (See full Georgia report)

The nation’s rate of preterm birth -- the largest contributor to infant death in the United States -- increased again in 2016, after nearly a decade of declines, earning the nation a grade of “C.” More than 380,000 babies are born preterm in the U.S. each year, facing a greater likelihood of death before their first birthday or lifelong disabilities and chronic health conditions. An additional 8,000 babies were born prematurely in 2016 due to the increase in the preterm birth rate between 2015 and 2016, the March of Dimes said.

“The 2017 March of Dimes Report Card demonstrates that moms and babies in this country face a higher risk of preterm birth based on race and ZIP code,” Stacey D Stewart, president of the March of Dimes, said. ”We see that preterm birth rates worsened in 43 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and among all racial/ethnic groups. This is an unacceptable trend that requires immediate attention.”

Premature birth (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) is the largest contributor to the 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.

“In addition to discovering new ways to prevent premature birth, and improve the care that women receive, it’s essential that we improve the broader social context for health,” says Paul E. Jarris, MD, MBA, chief medical officer of the March of Dimes. “Only then will our nation be able to level the playing field for mothers and babies in every community.”

With no one cause of preterm birth, and no simple solution, the March of Dimes says it is taking action on multiple fronts nationally and in communities with the greatest needs, in order to spread known innovations to give every baby a fighting chance, such as:

  • "Expanding scientific research: The conditions in which people live and work have a profound impact on birth outcomes. Scientists have learned that these factors can actually modify how genes are expressed. Studying and understanding the effect of factors such as health care, housing, jobs, neighborhood safety, food security, and income is key to achieving better health or birth equity for all.
  • "Increasing education: Traditional and new social media campaigns are educating women of childbearing age and healthcare professionals. We’re a trusted source on best practices, from reducing early elective (non-medically indicated) deliveries, to low-dose aspirin to group prenatal care that can dramatically improve the health of moms and babies.
  • "Strengthening advocacy for policies that prioritize the health of moms and babies: March of Dimes and our supporters work to ensure government policies and programs create a better community context for healthy pregnancies and infants. By advocating for the needs of moms and babies, we work to ensure no mom or baby falls through the cracks."

The 2017 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card provides rates and grades for states and counties in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, based on the latest NCHS data. Preterm birth rates worsened in 43 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, stayed the same in three states (Alabama, Arizona, Washington), and improved in only four states (Nebraska, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wyoming).