Louisiana Gets "F" from March of Dimes

For Premature Births in the State

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - 10:13am

BATON ROUGE, LA, Nov. 17, 2009— For the second consecutive year, Louisiana earned an “F” on the annual March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card, but it showed improvement on criteria that can help give all babies a healthy start in life.

The March of Dimes released its second annual report card today, the 7th Annual Prematurity Awareness Day ®, when the March of Dimes focuses the nation’s attention on the growing problem of premature birth (birth before 37 weeks gestation). Also for the second consecutive year, the United States earned only a “D” on the Report Card, demonstrating that more than a half-million of our nation’s newborns didn’t get the healthy start they deserved. As in 2008, no state earned an “A” and only Vermont received a “B.” The report card will be discussed in detail today at a press conference on the steps of the State Capitol at 10:00 a.m.

“Here in Louisiana we are proud of our hard work in reducing the number of women of childbearing age who smoke, which is a common risk factor for preterm birth. We hope that it will be the start of a decline in our preterm birth rate,” said Julia Carnes, March of Dimes Chapter Board Chair. “We have a long way to go before all babies in America get a healthy start in life and we are committed to working with state health officials, hospitals and health care providers to continue to fight for preemies.”

In addition to the overall rate of prematurity, the March of Dimes Report Card tracks the percentage of women of child-bearing age who smoke; the percent of uninsured women of childbearing age; and the rate of late preterm births, which are those babies born between 34 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. Louisiana’s only improvement was in the rate of women of childbearing age who smoke, which dropped from 21.6 percent reported on the last report card, to 20.1 percent on the newly released report. The state’s late preterm delivery rate rose slightly from 11.4 percent to 11.7 percent. The rate of uninsured women remained unchanged at 26.5 percent.

Recent work undertaken by the March of Dimes Louisiana Chapter to help combat these problems includes a $20,000 grant made to the St. Charles Community Health Center. The funding will support a bilingual Patient Care Coordinator who is working with women enrolled in Centering Pregnancy (a group model of prenatal care), and monitoring patients’ progress throughout the pregnancy, linking them to services as appropriate.

In the US, more than 540,000 babies are born too soon each year. Preterm birth 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, mental retardation and others. A March of Dimes report released in October found that 13 million babies worldwide were born preterm and more than one million die each year.

March of Dimes supports smoking cessation initiatives, such as increasing the tobacco tax, and plans to support such initiatives in Louisiana during the 2010 legislative session.

The March of Dimes is the leading 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 http://www.marchofdimes.com or http://www.nacersano.org.