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SD sees 6-year improvement in its preterm baby birth rates

South Dakota lowered its preterm birth rate to 10.7 percent, giving more babies a healthy start in life and earning the state a “B” grade on the 2013 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card.

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“Partnerships with our state health officials and hospitals have helped us make newborn health a priority and lowered our preterm birth rate, making a difference in babies’ lives,” said Dr. Justin Sharp, neonatologist from Avera McKennan Hospital and University Health Center.

“We will continue to work to give all babies a healthy start in life because too many continue to be born prematurely, before their lungs, brains and other organs are fully developed.”

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. South Dakota is part of a national trend toward improved preterm birth rates. Nationwide, the largest declines in premature birth occurred among babies born at 34 to 36 weeks of pregnancy. Every racial and ethnic group benefitted, and the preterm birth rates for babies born at all stages of pregnancy improved.

Almost every state saw its preterm birth rate decline since 2006, the national peak. In South Dakota, the rate of late preterm births is 7.5 percent, the rate of women smoking is 24.9 percent and the rate of uninsured women is 19.4 percent.

Two factors contribute to improved infant health in South Dakota. It earned a star on the report card for lowering the late preterm birth rate and reducing the percentage of women of childbearing age who smoke.

On Nov. 17, 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.

In 2013, the March of Dimes celebrates its 75th anniversary and its ongoing work to help babies get a healthy start. 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.

-Source: March of Dimes