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Oklahoma Earns March of Dimes Apgar Award for Prematurity Campaign

Oklahoma lowered its preterm birth by at least 8 percent since 2010, giving more babies a healthy start in life and earning it the March of Dimes Virginia Apgar Prematurity Campaign Leadership Award. The state’s preterm birth rate dropped to 10.3 percent in 2015, down from 11.2 percent in 2010.

Preterm birth is the number one killer of babies. Babies who survive an early birth often have lifelong health problems such as cerebral palsy, vision and hearing loss, and intellectual disabilities. Preterm birth is a serious health problem that costs the United States more than $26 billion annually, according to the Institute of Medicine.

The Virginia Apgar Award is given to recognize states that accepted and met a challenge from the March of Dimes and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) to lower their preterm birth rates at least 8 percent between 2010 and 2015. The award is named in honor of Virginia Apgar, MD, who developed the five-point APGAR score to evaluate an infant’s health at birth, and who served as vice president for medical affairs of the March of Dimes.

“This award is a reflection of the effort and dedication of health care providers of maternal and newborn care, along with public health and health care organizations throughout our state,” said Dr. Terry Cline, Oklahoma State Department of Health Commissioner and Health and Human Services Cabinet Secretary.

“We congratulate Oklahoma on the work they have done to give babies a fighting chance,” said Dr. Mary Anne McCaffree, Neonatologist, The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center and Chair of the March of Dimes Maternal Child Health Committee and Oklahoma Health Improvement Plan Child Health Group. “We know we still have work to do, but Oklahoma’s progress is encouraging and because of efforts such as this one day every baby may get a healthy start in life.”

“This progress shows that when infant health becomes a leadership priority, significant progress is possible and families and babies benefit,” said Dr. Paul E. Jarris, March of Dimes Senior Vice President, Maternal and Child Health Programs and Deputy Medical Officer.

The March of Dimes says progress in preterm birth rates came through bold leadership and the implementation of programs and policies by state and local health departments, hospitals and health care providers, as well as a more accurate method of measuring pregnancy length recently adopted by the National Center for Health Statistics.

Successful efforts by the March of Dimes and Preparing for a Lifetime initiatives to eliminate early elective (non-medically indicated) deliveries through Oklahoma’s Every Week Counts collaborative was able to achieve a 96% decrease in early elective deliveries. Additionally, Oklahoma has created tools to make progesterone, a medication that can decrease the rate of preterm birth in some high-risk women easier to prescribe and access for these high-risk women. Other interventions including reducing tobacco use among pregnant women; and encouraging women to not get pregnant again until at least 18 months after giving birth (birth spacing). These initiatives are currently in place to decrease Oklahoma’s overall infant mortality and preterm birth rates-- ultimately improving the health of moms and babies in our state.

March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. For the latest resources and health information, visit our websites marchofdimes.org and nacersano.org. If you have been affected by prematurity or birth defects, visit our shareyourstory.org community to find comfort and support. For detailed national, state and local perinatal statistics, visit persistats.org. You can also find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

The Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility initiative works with multiple partners to promote healthy outcomes for mothers and babies by addressing priority areas, including preterm birth. To learn about ways to help ensure the health and safety of Oklahoma’s smallest citizens and to access relevant resources, visit http://iio.health.ok.gov or call (405) 271-4480.

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