Receives “B” On 2013 March Of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card

SAYREVILLE, NJ  – New Jersey earned a better grade on the March of Dimes 2013 Premature Birth Report Card, giving more babies a healthy start in life and contributing to the national six-year improving trend.

New Jersey earned a B on the report card for lowering its preterm birth rate to 11.2 percent.

“We’re proud of New Jersey’s better grade on the report card. But we will continue to work to give all babies a healthy start in life because too many still are born too soon, before their lungs, brains or other organs are fully developed,” said Gerson Weiss, MD, Chief of Service, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health, University Hospital, and Professor and Chair, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women's Health, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “Partnerships with our state health officials and local hospitals have helped us make newborn health a priority and made a difference in babies’ lives.”

Here in New Jersey, the March of Dimes is supporting “Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait” that will help women have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies. This initiative aims to reduce preterm birth rates in African-American women in Newark, NJ.  Funded by Johnson & Johnson, the program works with hospitals, heath departments and community organizations to provide education and implement interventions.

New Jersey also provides a NICU Family Support service. At Capital Health and Newark Beth Israel, this program provides information and comfort to families during the NICU hospitalization of their newborn, the transition home, and in the event of a newborn death.

New Jersey is part of a national trend toward improved preterm birth rates. 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 New Jersey, better 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, the national peak.

In New Jersey, the rate of late preterm births is 7.7%, the percentage of women of childbearing age who smoke is 16.5% and the rate of uninsured women is 19.8%.

These factors contribute to improved infant health in New Jersey, which earned a star on the report card for:

  • Reducing the percent of uninsured women of child-bearing age;
  • Lowering the late preterm birth rate.

These improvements mean not just healthier babies, but also a potential savings in health care and economic costs to society.

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

“We will continue to work together to improve access to health care, help women quit smoking and, through our Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait consumer education campaign, encourage women and health care providers to avoid scheduling a delivery before 39 weeks of pregnancy unless medically necessary,” said Addy Bonet, State Director, March of Dimes, New Jersey chapter.

The United States again received a “C” on the March of Dimes 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 Report Card information for the U.S. and states is available online at:

Premature birth, birth before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy, 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 important to a baby’s health because many important organs, including the brain and lungs, are not completely developed until then.

On November 17th, 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. An estimated 15 million babies are born premature and of those more than a million die as a result of their early birth.

Families and volunteers can observe World Prematurity Day by sending their friends a “virtual hug” to show that they care about premature babies. The “Hugs” campaign dramatizes the benefits of Kangaroocare, 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.

Prematurity Awareness events are happening throughout November, including Blue Jeans for Babies in New Jersey. Details can be found at

In 2013, the March of Dimes celebrates its 75th Anniversary and its ongoing work to help babies get a healthy start in life.  Early research led to the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines that all babies still receive.  Other breakthroughs include new treatments for premature infants and children with birth defects.  About 4 million babies are born each year in the United States, and all have benefitted the March of Dimes life saving research and education.