As we again honor World Prematurity Day on November 17th, we must also acknowledge the problem is still growing. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that the average rate of preterm birth (birth prior to 37 weeks gestation) has increased for the third year in a row. The preterm birth rate has increased from 9.6% to 9.93% between 2016 and 2017. As a result, the March of Dimes Premature Birth Rate Report Card gives the United States a disappointing grade of “C”.
Prematurity is the leading cause of death worldwide in children under five years of age. This vulnerable population is at an increased risk of long-term health problems such as: cerebral palsy, developmental delay, breathing difficulties, blindness and hearing loss.
The 2017 report continued to show that prematurity disproportionally impacts different regions and populations:
- Thirty states had an increased prematurity rate compared to 2016.
- The southeastern region of the US continues to struggle, with many states having prematurity rates over 11%.
- Mississippi recorded the highest rate at 13.6% of live births.
- In our home state of Pennsylvania, 9.4% of births are premature, while next door in West Virginia, the rate jumps to 12%.
- Major cities recording the highest prematurity rates include Cleveland at 14.4%, Memphis at 14.1%, and Detroit at 14.5%.
- Women of color are up to 50 percent more likely to deliver prematurely and these infants have a 130% higher infant death rate than white women.
This report highlights why so much focus remains on prematurity, and why ProgenyHealth’s service area is expanding. While health plans are working to mitigate the incidence of and costs associated with premature births, ProgenyHealth is providing integrated utilization management and case management services for these infants and their families during the NICU stay, and throughout the first year of life. We do this in collaboration with providers and thought leaders from across the United States. We also celebrate those who are delivering solutions, and hope, in their local communities.
The state of Rhode Island, Knox County in Tennessee, and the city of Raleigh, North Carolina, are cited in the report for achieving significant improvement in prematurity rates. These successes were realized via care coordination initiatives from state and local leaders including representatives from Departments of Health as well as health care systems. Specific programs cited for efficacy included Pregnancy Medical Home models, smoking cessation, and reducing elective early deliveries.
Stacey Stewart, president of the March of Dimes, states in the report that, “By expanding proven programs and innovative solutions we can shift our health care system to improve treatment and preventive care for moms and lower the preterm birth rate.”
At ProgenyHealth, we agree with this proactive approach that emphasizes early intervention. For over a decade, our team of neonatologists and NICU / pediatric nurses has helped thousands of at-risk infants and moms achieve healthy outcomes despite the challenges they face. That challenge is deepening, but so is our commitment to this vulnerable population of preemies. We honor those working every day to turn the tables on this disturbing trend.