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Minnesota Makes Progress on Reducing Premature Births

PHOTO: There's still more work to be done, but progress is being made in Minnesota in reducing the number of babies being born too soon. Photo credit: Joshua Smith/Flickr.
PHOTO: There's still more work to be done, but progress is being made in Minnesota in reducing the number of babies being born too soon. Photo credit: Joshua Smith/Flickr.
November 19, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The latest figures show the preterm birth rate in Minnesota continues to trend downward, but the progress has been slow toward the goal of healthier babies here and across the nation. As of last year, the U.S. premature birth rate had fallen to 11.4 percent. In Minnesota, the rate dropped to 9.8 percent, says Martha Overby, director of program services with the state chapter of the March of Dimes.

"We are focusing our attention on making sure that babies went to full term, 39 weeks or 40 weeks, and unless medically necessary avoiding early elective deliveries," says Overby. "Minnesota has really led the charge on that front."

The March of Dimes is leading the campaign to reduce the nation's preterm birth rate, with a goal of 9.6 percent or less by 2020.

Premature birth is the leading cause of newborn death and babies who survive often face the risk of serious and sometimes lifelong health issues. Overby says, further reducing the number of babies being born too soon can save billions of dollars in health and societal costs.

"The average birth in Minnesota is just under $5,000," she says. "The average stay in a neonatal intensive care unit is around $55,000; that's why it's important to reduce our preterm birth rate."

Often, the specific cause of premature birth isn't clear, but factors that may increase the risk include smoking, some infections and some chronic conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN