Preterm birth rate in US fell to 11.4 percent in 2013 - the lowest in 17 years, and has met the federal Healthy 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.
"Achieving the Healthy People 2020 goal is reason for celebration, but the U.S. still has one of the highest rates of preterm birth of any high resource country and we must change that," said March of Dimes President Dr. Jennifer L. Howse. "We are investing in a network of five prematurity research centers to find solutions to this still too-common, costly, and serious problem."
More than 450,000 babies were born premature in 2013, compared to 542,893 in 2006 when the rate was at its highest. The March of Dimes estimates that since 2006, 231,000 fewer babies have been born preterm because of sustained interventions put in place by states, saving $11.9 billion in healthcare and other costs. Medical expenses for an average premature infant are about $54,000 compared to just $4,000 for a healthy newborn.
The sustained improvement in reducing premature births shows that when infant health becomes a priority, babies benefit. Bold leadership and policies implemented by state and local health departments, hospitals and health care providers will encourage continued health improvements for newborns, Dr. Howse added.