BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Louisiana's preterm birth rate has remained unchanged from 2015 at 12.3%. That's according to the 2016 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card. The state received an 'F' grade on the report, but progress is being made.
"This year's report shows that additional steps need to be taken in Louisiana to give more babies a healthier start to life. The issue of preterm birth has become too common and too accepted in all of our communities," said Joseph Bocchini, M.D., Jr. chairman of the March of Dimes Louisiana State Maternal and Child Health Committee and chairman of the Department of Pediatrics for LSUHSC - Shreveport.
The preterm birth rate for the U.S. has increased for the first time in eight years, resulting in a 'C' grade for the country as a whole. The report revealed there is an unfair burden or premature birth among racial and ethnic groups, as well as in some geographic areas. Louisiana ranks near the bottom at 48 for these disparities.
Among parishes in Louisiana where most babies are born, rates range from 9.9% in St. Tammany Parish to 18.6 in Caddo. The report states that among black women in Louisiana, the preterm birth rate is 49% higher than the rate for all other women in the state.
In the U.S., preterm births account for more than $26 million every year in avoidable medical costs. The March of Dimes is supporting an effort in Louisiana that is making an impact, providing more women with certain risk factors access to progesterone shots to help prevent premature birth. For mothers with a history of this issue, a synthetic form of progesterone has been found to reduce the recurrence of premature birth by 33%. It is currently estimated that only 5% of eligible women in Louisiana have access to this shot. The March of Dimes hopes to increase that number to 20%.
The March of Dimes has partnered with the State of Louisiana Maternal and Child Health Department to address health needs in Shreveport. IN 2015, Shreveport had the highest preterm birth rate among the 100 U.S. cities where the most babies are born.
"With broader awareness and implementation of programs like the ones in Louisiana, we can achieve March of Dimes' goal to lower the preterm birth rate to 8.1 by 2020. America leads the world in medical research and care, yet the U.S. preterm birth rate still ranks among the worst of high resource nations. This in unacceptable, but fixable. Our immediate actions will help give all babies a better tomorrow," said Dr. Edward R.B. McCabe, chief medical officer for March of Dimes.
For more information, visit marchofdimes.org.