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    SIX-YEAR DECREASE IN PRETERM BIRTH SAVES 176,000 INFANTS FROM PREMATURITY

    D.C., Maryland and Virginia receive “C” grades on March of Dimes 2013 Report Card; D.C. receives award for reduction of premature births

    Arlington, VA, November 01, 2013 —

    November marks Prematurity Awareness Month®, and to highlight the importance of this issue, the March of Dimes today released its annual Premature Birth Report Cards. March of Dimes 2013 Preterm Birth Report Card grades are based on a comparison by area of 2012 preliminary preterm birth rates to the March of Dimes 2020 reduction goal of 9.6 percent of all live births. Data includes preterm rates by race and ethnicity. According to the March of Dimes, prematurity remains especially high among African Americans.  

    The nation’s preterm birth rate dropped for the sixth consecutive year in 2012 to 11.5 percent, marking a 15-year low from the peak of 12.8 percent in 2006. As a result, the U.S. again received a “C” grade on the 2013 report card.  

    On the 2013 Report Card, 31 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia saw improvement in their preterm birth rates between 2011 and 2012, earning seven of them, including D.C., higher grades. Nationwide, the largest declines in premature birth occurred among babies born at 34 to 36 weeks of pregnancy. Almost every state saw its preterm birth rate decline since 2006, which was the national peak. Report Cards are available at: marchofdimes.com/reportcard

    “Without reductions in the preterm birth rate in America since 2006, 176,000 more babies or 7,040 kindergarten classes would have been born prematurely,” said Robin Baker, M.D., a neonatologist with Fairfax Neonatal Associates and a local March of Dimes board member.  

    Locally, preterm birth rates in Maryland and the District declined, giving more babies a healthy start in life. Both received a “C” grade for lowering their preterm birth rate to 12.2 percent (Maryland) and 12.8 percent (D.C.). Unfortunately, Virginia’s preterm birth rate increased slightly to 11.3 percent from 11.2 percent. This resulted in its grade dropping from last year’s “B” to a “C.” However, the current rate remains an improvement from its peak rate in 2006. 

    The March of Dimes attributed the improved rates across the country to an expansion of successful programs and interventions, including actions by health officials in every state, the District and Puerto Rico, who formally set goals to lower their preterm birth rates 8 percent by 2014 from their 2009 rate.  

    In the National Capital Area, the following factors contributed to improved infant health rates:  

    • Reducing the percentage of uninsured women of child-bearing age;
    • Lowering the percentage of women of childbearing age who smoke;
    • Reducing the late preterm birth rate (Maryland and D.C. only).  

    Dr. Baker continued, “Partnerships with local health officials and hospitals helped us make newborn health a priority. We’re proud to see improved preterm birth rates in Maryland and D.C. and are hopeful that we can reverse Virginia’s regression.” 

    These improvements mean not just healthier babies, but also a potential savings in health care and economic costs to society. Defined as a birth before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy, premature birth is a serious health problem that, according to the Institute of Medicine, costs the U.S. more than $26 billion annually. It is the leading cause of newborn death. Babies who survive an early birth often face the risk of lifetime health challenges, such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities and other health issues. Even babies born just a few weeks early have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than full-term infants and their medical costs can be up to 12 times more than an uncomplicated birth.  

    March of Dimes programs in the National Capital Area, such as centering pregnancy, Stork’s Nests and the Mama & Baby Bus help women have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies. In support of hospitals’ efforts to end early elective deliveries, the March of Dimes created the Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait campaign to educate women that babies need at least 39 weeks to fully develop and that if a pregnancy is healthy, it’s best to wait for labor to start on its own.  

    “With 1 in 9 babies born too soon, our national rate is higher than that of most developed nations,” noted Tina Cavucci, March of Dimes Maryland-National Capital Area Chapter Director. “We will work tirelessly to improve access to health care, help women quit smoking and through our Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait campaign put end to premature births.”

     Singers Celine Dion and Thalia are featured in public service announcements to help to raise awareness of these issues and bring more babies home healthy. Also in honor of Prematurity Awareness Month, the March of Dimes has numerous events nationwide to help raise awareness and promote action. Local activities include:   

    •  Because the District reduced its preterm birth rate by 9.9 percent, the March of Dimes will present the District of Columbia Department of Health with its Virginia Apgar Prematurity Campaign Award
    • Throughout November, March of Dimes staff and volunteers will visit nearly 50 hospitals for a “Day of Gratitude” to thank Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) doctors, nurses and other health care professionals for all that they do every day for fragile newborns. 
    • The March of Dimes Tri-State Network for Perinatal Health Equity Summit will be held November 15 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Providence Hospital, 1150 Varnum Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20017. Leading obstetricians, neonatologists, public health officials and maternal and child health professionals will be updated on the latest developments in preventing premature birth. For information about the Summit, contact Marie Pokraka at MPokraka@marchofdimes.com or (571) 257-2301. 

    Of particular note, on November 17, partners from around the world will mark the third World Prematurity Day in support of the Every Woman Every Child effort led by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Globally, an estimated 15 million babies are born premature and of those more than a million die as a result of their early birth. People can help raise awareness by going to facebook.com/WorldPrematurityDay and joining the virtual campaign to share stories, give hope and save lives.   

    Families and volunteers can observe World Prematurity Day by sharing a “Virtual hug” to show that they care about premature babies. The “Hugs” campaign dramatizes the benefits of Kangaroo care, which is when parents cuddle their premature baby skin-to-skin. Kangaroo care is one of the most comforting things parents can do for their child. It helps keep the baby warm, stabilizes the baby’s heart rate and helps the baby gain weight. 

    There are numerous other ways organizations and individuals can support the March of Dimes quest to understand and end prematurity. From making a donation to volunteering at events and advocating for healthier babies, those who want to get involved can contact the March of Dimes Maryland-National Capital Area Chapter at (571) 257-2330 or visit marchofdimes.com/metrodc

    About the March of Dimes

    The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide and its premier event, March for Babies, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. This year, the March of Dimes celebrates its 75th anniversary and its ongoing work to help all babies get a healthy start in life.  More than four million babies were born in the United States last year, and the March of Dimes has helped each and every one through research, education, vaccines, and breakthroughs. 

    Contact:  Michele Murphy-Hedrick, (571) 257-2303, mmurphyhedrick@marchofdimes.com

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