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Report: Preterm Birth Rates Rising Across Arkansas, U.S.

This year's Premature Birth Report Card shows that for the first time in eight years, the U.S. preterm birth rate has increased. (March of Dimes)
This year's Premature Birth Report Card shows that for the first time in eight years, the U.S. preterm birth rate has increased. (March of Dimes)
November 2, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Arkansas's premature birth rate is rising, dropping the state from a grade of C to a D on the March of Dimes' annual Premature Birth Report Card.

In 2016, the group said, the state's premature birth rate increased to 10.8 percent from 10 percent the previous year. During the same period, the U.S. preterm birth rate also showed a significant increase, resulting in a grade of C for the nation as a whole.

Dr. Ed McCabe, chief medical officer for the March of Dimes, said that is unacceptable in a country with some of the best health care in the world.

"The United States went from 9.57 to 9.63 percent; first time in eight years we've seen an increase in the premature birth rate," he said, "and we're headed in the wrong direction."

Studies show that premature birth, defined as a child born before 37 weeks, is the leading cause of death for infants in the United States. The report said women in minority populations and in low-income areas had a disproportionate share of premature births. On this year's report card, 41 states received a passing grade of A, B or C, while seven states received a D and three got an F.

McCabe said early births cost the nation $26 billion a year in avoidable medical and social costs. He added that children who survive an early birth are likely to face a lifetime of serious health problems based on their mothers' choices during pregnancy.

"We know that tobacco use is associated with premature birth, as is alcohol and drug use," he said, "So, we recognize that it's hard and it requires an incredible focus over years to get this rate down."

McCabe said he sees the increasing rate of premature births as a major public health concern.

"As a country, we seem to have lost our way," he said, "and Arkansas is an example of a state that dropped a full grade because its rate went up by 0.8 percent."

He said Arkansas has several programs in place to deal with preterm births, including "Stork's Nest" and "Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait." The Report Card was released Tuesday ahead of World Prematurity Day, on Nov. 17, to focus attention on the problem.

The report is online at

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AR