COLUMBIA — South Carolina received a “D” grade on the March of Dimes 2011 report card released Tuesday. The March of Dimes 2020 goal for preterm birth rates is 9.6 percent. South Carolina’s preterm birth rate is 14.5 percent.
“Although our state’s preterm birth rate did not improve this year, the long term trend is moving in the right direction. We will continue to work together with our partners for stronger, healthier babies,” Vince Ford, March of Dimes Chapter Board Chair, said. “We are determined to find and implement solutions to improve the health of babies, such as improving access to health care coverage, helping women quit smoking, and preventing unnecessary early c-sections so more babies can get a healthy start in life.”
The United States received a “C” on the March of Dimes Report Card. Grades are based on comparing the state’s and the nation’s 2009 preliminary preterm birth rates with the new March of Dimes 2020 goal of 9.6 percent. The U.S. preterm birth rate is 12.2 percent, down from the peak of 12.8 percent in 2006.
The Report Card information for the U.S. and states is available online at: marchofdimes.com/prematurity.
In South Carolina, the rate of women smoking is 20.7 percent; the rate of uninsured women is 24 percent; and the rate of late preterm births is 10 percent. Quality improvement programs are key to lowering preterm birth rates, according to the March of Dimes. The March of Dimes South Carolina Chapter is:
• Collaborating with the Department of Health and Human Services and the South Carolina Hospital Association to engage hospital partners to reduce the rate of elective inductions before 39 weeks.
• Funding a CenteringPregnancy® grant at Greenville Hospital System — this program is a group approach to prenatal care and has been shown to reduce preterm birth among participants.
• Investing more than $450,000 in community grants to fund smoking cessation programs, and to help women gain access to health insurance and to reduce late preterm births.
• Promoting our Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait/39 weeks education campaign to expectant moms.
• Offering Healthy Babies Healthy Business, a no cost, online wellness program for employers.
• Preterm birth, birth before 37 weeks completed gestation, 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, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities and others. Even babies born just a few weeks early have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than full-term infants. At least 39 weeks of pregnancy are critical to a baby’s health because many important organs, including the brain and lungs, are not completely developed until then.
• The March of Dimes says its 2020 preterm birth goal can be achieved by a combination of activities: giving all women of childbearing age access to health care coverage; fully implementing proven interventions to reduce the risk of an early birth, such as not smoking during pregnancy, getting preconception and early prenatal care; progesterone treatments for women who are medically eligible; avoiding multiples from fertility treatments, avoiding medically unnecessary c-sections and inductions before 39 weeks of pregnancy; and by funding new research on prevention of preterm birth.
November is Prematurity Awareness Month and the release of the annual Premature Birth Report Card is part of the month’s awareness-building activities. This year, for the first time, a World Prematurity Day will be observed on Nov. 17 by the March of Dimes along with organizations in Africa, Europe, and Australia. An estimated 13 million babies are born preterm and of those one million die as a result of their early birth, according to an October 2009 March of Dimes report on the global toll of preterm birth.
Locally, on Nov. 10, the March of Dimes, along with the South Carolina Hospital Association and South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services will be hosting a press conference which will include hospital representatives from across the state along with maternal and child health professionals to update them on the latest Birth Outcomes Initiative collaborative. This initiative includes the March of Dimes Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait campaign which encourages physicians and expectant moms not to schedule elective inductions or c-sections before 39 weeks of pregnancy. Facebook.com/scmarchofdimes.com
Each year, the South Carolina Chapter of the March of Dimes invests more than $1.5 million in mission initiatives statewide, including research grants and local community services. Through these program services, the March of Dimes continues working to prevent birth defects and infant death, reduce South Carolina’s premature birth rate, increase access to prenatal care and educate men and women about having healthy babies.
The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit 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. On November 17, 2011, the March of Dimes and its global partners will observe the first-ever World Prematurity Day to raise awareness that preterm birth is a serious problem worldwide. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.