New Jersey’s Grade on March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card Slips to “C”

SAYREVILLE NJ - New Jersey’s premature birth raterose to 11.5 percent in 2014,earning a “C” on the 2014 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card, and representing a slight increase from last year.

New Jersey’s preterm birth rate has been declining in recent years. Although the rate rose last year, the long-term trend shows improvement. New Jersey’s work to reduce premature birth is giving more babies a healthy start in life and contributing to the overall improvement in the national preterm birth rate.

The 2013 preliminary preterm birth rate was 11.2 percent, down from 11.7 percent a year earlier, due to the ongoing work by the March of Dimes and its partners.

“This year’s increase in our preterm birth rate is disappointing,” said Dr. Gerson Weiss, Professor Emeritus at Rutgers, NJ Medical School, Department of OB/GYN. “We expect this to be a brief setback in our long-term progress toward preventing premature birth and giving more babies a healthy start in life. The programs and partnerships we have put in place provide the necessary framework for the future of newborn health and we expect to see better rates in the coming years.”

All states accepted the March of Dimes and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) challenge to lower their preterm birth rates 8 percent between 2009 and 2014. March of Dimes staff and state health officials pledged to determine if program changes are needed or if specific groups or regions should be targeted for assistance. The March of Dimes also is investing in a network of prematurity research centers to find solutions to this still too-common, costly, and serious problem.

New Jersey officials also have been working with the March of Dimes to encourage women and health care providers to avoid scheduling a medically unnecessary delivery before 39 weeks of pregnancy. 

Certain factors contributed to improved infant health in New Jersey such as a significant reduction in the percentage of women of childbearing age who smoke. In New Jersey, the rate of late preterm births is 7.9%, the rate of women smoking is 14.4% and the rate of uninsured women is 18.5%.

Premature birth, birth before 37 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 vital organs, including the brain and lungs, are not completely developed until then.

The national preterm birth rate fell to 11.4 percent in 2013 – the lowest in 17 years -- meeting the federal Health People 2020 goal seven years early.  Despite this progress, the U.S. still received a “C” on the 7th annual March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card because it fell short of the more-challenging 9.6 percent target set by the March of Dimes, the group said today. The U.S. still has the highest rate of preterm birth of any industrialized country.

On November 17th, the March of Dimes and organizations from around the world will mark the fourth World Prematurity Day. The World Prematurity Network (WPN), a global coalition of consumer and parent groups working together to raise awareness and prevent premature birth in their countries, is calling for action to prevent preterm birth and improve care for babies born too soon.  An estimated 15 million babies are born premature and of those more than a million die as a result of their early birth.

Learn more about Prematurity Awareness Month and World Prematurity Day by visiting http://www.facebook.com/worldprematurityday and share stories and videos about babies born too soon. The page features an interactive world map showing the home place for each story told.

Prematurity Awareness events are happening throughout November. Here in New Jersey,

  • many buildings and highways will be lighting up purple on November 17th.
  • schools in North New Jersey are participating in a Reading Champions program to raise money for the March of Dimes, and work towards winning an assembly with award winning children’s author/illustrator DyAnne DiSalvo.
  • On November 19th, in Newark, the chapter will host a Prematurity Forum asking maternal child health leaders to redouble our efforts to reduce preterm births.
  • South Jersey Chain Reaction Youth Leaders will be supporting Prematurity Awareness Month with school lightings and awareness activities throughout their schools.

The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. For more than 75 years, moms and babies have benefited from March of Dimes research, education, vaccines, and breakthroughs. Find out how you can help raise funds to prevent premature birth and birth defects by walking in March for Babies at marchforbabies.org.  For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.org or nacersano.org. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.