Tennessee’s Preterm Birth Rate Rises To 11.3 Percent, Earning The State A “D” Grade

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Tennessee’s preterm birth rate is higher from a year ago at 11.3 percent, according to the 2017 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card. The state received a “D” grade on the annual 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, 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 says. 

“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, 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.” 

“The March of Dimes is dedicated to giving every baby a fair chance for a healthy start in life, and our work is more vital than ever,” Ms. Stewart said. 

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,” said 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: 

1. Expanding scientific research:
A network of five March of Dimes Prematurity Research Centers is pioneering an innovative team approach to identify the unknown causes of premature birth
and find new ways to prevent it. 
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. 

2. 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. 

3. 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.
We launched a Prematurity Campaign Collaborative, convening 300 leading maternal and child health organizations and experts to build a movement around equity and preterm birth.  

4. Improving clinical care programs and practice:
The March of Dimes creates and runs its signature programs on the ground that help improve health outcomes for mothers and babies, such as Supportive Pregnancy Care; and support and educate families with preterm babies, such as NICU Family Support. 

Through programs in Tennessee, such as:  

1. Supportive Pregnancy Care is a new group prenatal care model developed by the March of Dimes. The initiative aims to expand group prenatal care intervention, reduce preterm births, increase initiation of breast feeding, and decrease associated health care costs. Supportive Pregnancy Care is implemented in Tennessee in a partnership with United Health Group and the State Department of Health. The program is currently implemented at seven facilities across the state and will double in size in 2018.   

2. Leading efforts with Amerigroup Foundation to advance the ongoing commitment to address health disparities and improve public health by advancing smoking cessation services to pregnant women in Tennessee 

3. Stork’s Nest partnerships with Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. to promote equity in prenatal health education and health literacy among women in underserved communities. Two Stork’s Nest sites are housed in Tennessee.    

4. Advisory groups and coalitions are underway on 17P and Postpartum Contraceptive Access Initiative in Tennessee 

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 (AL, AZ, WA), and improved in only four states (NE, NH, PA, WY).  

Four states earned an “A” on the 2017 Premature Birth Report Card; 
13 states received a “B”; 
18 states got a “C”; 
11 states got a “D” and the District of Columbia; 
4 states and Puerto Rico received an “F.”  
To learn more about our solutions or donate to the March of Dimes, visit marchofdimes.org.

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