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Release Date:  Nov. 1, 2013

Contact: Belinda Rogers, (405) 415-1264, brogers@marchofdimes.com

Contact: Pamela Williams, OSDH Office of Communications, (405) 271-5601                         

Oklahoma Celebrates Improvement in Preterm Birth Rate

(OKLAHOMA CITY, OK, Nov. 1, 2013) – Oklahoma has lowered its preterm birth rate for the third year in a row, giving more babies a healthy start in life and contributing to a national six-year improvement trend, according to the March of Dimes 2013 Preterm Birth Report Card released today.

Oklahoma lowered its overall preterm birth rate from 13.2 percent in 2012 to 13.0 percent in 2013, barely missing a grade of “C,” thus receiving the same grade of “D” for another year. The goal set by the March of Dimes for all states is a preterm birthrate of 9.6 percent.

“Partnerships with our state health officials and local hospitals have helped us make newborn health a priority and lowered our preterm birth rate, making a difference in babies’ lives,” said Belinda Rogers, director of programs for the Oklahoma Chapter of the March of Dimes. “We will continue to work to give all babies a healthy start in life because too many are born too soon, before their lungs, brains or other organs are fully developed.”

Premature birth, which is birth before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy, is a serious health problem that costs the U.S.  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 among other challenges. 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 important to a baby’s health because many important organs, including the brain and lungs, are not completely developed until then.

Rogers said the March of Dimes and its partners are focused on efforts to end non-medically indicated scheduled c-sections and inductions prior to 39 weeks through the Every Week Counts collaborative.  This collaborative of Oklahoma birthing hospitals has achieved an 86 percent decrease in early, elective deliveries in Oklahoma resulting in more Oklahoma women having full-term pregnancies and healthy babies.

Joining the March of Dimes in the Every Week Counts collaborative is the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) and its Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility initiative. “We are pleased to work with the March of Dimes and other partners to improve access to health care, help women quit smoking and reduce premature deliveries,” said Suzanna Dooley, director of the OSDH Maternal and Child Health Service. 

Almost every state has seen its preterm birth rate decline since 2006, when the national peak was 12.8 percent. In Oklahoma, the rate of late preterm births is the same as last year at 9.4 percent; the rate of women smoking is 26.3 percent, down from 29.3 percent; and the rate of uninsured women is 24.1 percent, down from 25.3 percent. These factors contribute to improved infant health in Oklahoma. The state earned a star in the March of Dimes report for reducing the percentage of uninsured women of childbearing age as well as reducing the percentage of women of childbearing age who smoke.

“These improvements mean not just healthier babies, but also a potential savings in health care and economic costs to society. We expect to see lower rates for late preterm births as the trending on the data from the Every Week Counts collaborative projects even lower rates over time,” said Barbara O’Brien, director of the Office of Perinatal Quality Improvement at the OU Health Sciences Center.

The U.S. received a “C” on the March of Dimes 2013 Premature Birth Report Card.  Grades are based on comparing each state’s and the nation’s 2012 preliminary preterm birth rates with the March of Dimes 2020 goal of 9.6 percent of all live births. The U.S. preterm birth rate is 11.5 percent, a decline of 10 percent from the peak of 12.8 percent in 2006. The 2013 Premature Birth Report Card information for the U.S. and states is available at: www.marchofdimes.com/reportcard.

Additional information regarding efforts to improve the health of Oklahoma’s mothers and babies is available at www.marchofdimes.com or http://iio.health.ok.gov.

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