The U.S. receives a “C” for its infant health

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What would be the consequences if your child came home with a report card with D or F grades? In my house, I would take drastic and immediate action.

Each year the March of Dimes examines how well our country is doing in terms of infant health. Using the preterm birth rate as its measure, the nonprofit assigns a letter grade.

On Monday, November 4, the March of Dimes issued report cards to the nation and to each state. The United States earned a C. Six states and Washington, D.C. earned a C-. Fifteen states and Puerto Rico earned a D or F.

This dismal account marks the fourth year in a row that the premature birth rate in the U.S. has increased. This is chilling.

Babies born too soon often must spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit to survive. And they remain at heightened risk of dying before their first birthday.

“Premature birth and its complications are the largest contributors to infant death in this country,” bluntly states the March of Dimes.

The risk of prematurity and infant death is not spread evenly across all families. A baby born in West Virginia is more likely to be born early than a baby born in Oregon (the only state earning an A grade). And African-American women are 49% more likely to have a preterm birth than white women. In addition to its analysis of the data, the March of Dimes report includes a discussion of its key recommendations for improving the nation’s infant health.

On Friday, November 8, I attended “400 Years of Inequity: A Call to Action,” a conference sponsored by the YWCA of Cleveland and First Year Cleveland. Over two days, dozens of speakers described how the racial health disparities seen in maternal and infant health today are a result of centuries of “inequities in social conditions that were forced upon slaves and their descendants.”

Join SOPHE in its efforts to address this public health issue on November 17 for World Prematurity Day.

Liz Marshall
SCRIPT Program Manager