Tri-States lagging in goal to reduce premature births - WGEM.com: Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio

Tri-States lagging in goal to reduce premature births

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A Hannibal mother places her hand on the head of her two-week-old baby, who sleeps in an incubator at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, in St. Louis, MO. The city scored an F on the 2015 March of Dimes Report Card. A Hannibal mother places her hand on the head of her two-week-old baby, who sleeps in an incubator at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, in St. Louis, MO. The city scored an F on the 2015 March of Dimes Report Card.
A Hannibal baby gets geared up for UV lights over her incubator to treat jaundice at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. A Hannibal baby gets geared up for UV lights over her incubator to treat jaundice at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
A team of neonatal nurses deliver oxygen as they rush a Hannibal baby from the operation room to the Special Care Nursery in Barnes-Jewish Hospital after being born at 3 pounds. A team of neonatal nurses deliver oxygen as they rush a Hannibal baby from the operation room to the Special Care Nursery in Barnes-Jewish Hospital after being born at 3 pounds.
A Hannibal baby born six weeks early receives care in a St. Louis hospital. A Hannibal baby born six weeks early receives care in a St. Louis hospital.
A Hannibal baby looks out the side of her incubator at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. A Hannibal baby looks out the side of her incubator at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
QUINCY, Ill. (WGEM) -

The number of premature births, or babies born before 37 weeks, in the United States has improved, reaching a goal set by the March of Dimes five years early, but numbers in the Tri-States still aren't good.

The organization says premature birth is the leading cause of infant death and the number one killer of babies. Prematurity can cause multiple problems for babies, including long-term complications like cerebral palsy, impaired cognitive skills, vision problems, hearing problems, dental problems, behavioral and psychological problems and chronic health issues, according to Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic also says immediate complications can include breathing, heart, brain, temperature control, gastrointestinal, blood, metabolism and immune system problems.

The March of Dimes says the U.S. preterm birth rate is among the worst in the first world, earning a C in its 2015 Report Card with an average of 9.6 percent of live births being premature. Iowa was slightly lower, but Missouri and Illinois had slightly higher numbers. All three states share the national average C grade.

St. Louis, where many premature babies from the Tri-States are born, is the only nearby city with enough births to make the report card's list of 100 cities. It scored an F, with a premature birth rate of 12.5 percent. That puts St. Louis on the seventh worst spot on the list. Numbers were not available for Springfield, Illinois, Columbia, Missouri, and Iowa City, Iowa.

The March of Dimes has set its new goal to bring the preterm birth rate down to 8.1 live births by 2020 and 5.5 percent by 2030. While the organization hit its goal early, March of Dimes President Dr. Jennifer L. Howse says it's not a victory.

"As our new list of city preterm birth rates highlights, many areas of the country, and tens of thousands of families, are not sharing in this success," Howse said. "No baby should have to battle the health consequences of an early birth. All babies everywhere deserve a healthy start in life."

Adams County Health Department Healthworks Coordinator Alison Ketsenburg says education is key.

"We have a grant through the March of Dimes called Becoming a Mom," Ketsenburg said. "It's a healthy pregnancy class open for all pregnant women, whether it's their first kid or not. And we talk about how to have a healthy pregnancy."

The progress made so far, the organization says, comes thanks to programs and policies by state and local health departments, hospitals and health care providers and a new accurate way to measure pregnancy length, which has been adopted by the National Center for Health Statistics. The March of Dimes says that measurement was already in use by most other high-resource countries.

Meeting its next goal by 2020 will mean 210,000 fewer babies will be born too soon, and reaching the 2030 goal means 1.3 millions fewer. 

Grades were based on how far away each state deviated from the March of Dimes goal of 8.1 percent, by subtracting 8.1 from each state's birth rate. Those scores were rounded up one decimal place and given a grade.

Ketsenburg says the Becoming a Mom class starts November 17th. Contact the health department if you're interested. 

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