SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Utah earns a better grade on the March of Dimes 2012 Premature Birth report card, giving more babies a healthy start in life and contributing to the national five-year improving trend. The state earns a "B" grade on the report card for lowering its preterm birth rate to 10.9 percent.
"We're proud that our state's preterm birth rate is improving. Utah's progress means that more babies are being born healthy, excess health care costs are being reduced, and families are being spared the heartache of having a baby born too soon," said Julie Drake, Director of Program Services march of Dimes Utah Chapter. "To continue this progress for mothers and babies, the Utah State Department of Health and the March of Dimes have set a goal to reduce premature birth by at least 8 percent between 2009 and 2014."
Here in Utah, the March of Dimes is supporting efforts to end early elective deliveries, and identify specific characteristics associated with preterm births that will help women have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies.
Utah is part of a national trend toward improved preterm birth rates, 40 states saw improvement in their preterm birth rates between 2010 and 2011. On the 2012 Report Card, 16 states, including Utah got a better grade. 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. Nationally, every racial and ethnic group benefitted, and the preterm birth rates for babies born at all stages of pregnancy improved.
Since 2006, Utah's preterm birth rate has dropped to 10.9%. In Utah, the rate of late preterm births is 8.2%; the rate of women smoking during pregnancy is 10.8%; and the rate of uninsured women is 18.7%.
These factors contribute to improved infant health in Utah. Utah earned a star on the report card for lowering the late preterm birth rate, but there was an increase in the rate of uninsured women in 2011. Making improvements in these three areas mean not just healthier babies, but also a potential savings in health care and economic costs to society.
"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," Julie Drake March of Dimes Utah Chapter.