Louisiana gets another ‘F’ for premature births

By March of Dimes

The 2016 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card reveals rate differences across geography and ethnicity

Louisiana’s preterm birth rate is unchanged from a year ago at 12.3 percent, according to the 2016 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card. The state received an F grade on the annual report, but progress is being made through localized efforts.

“This year’s report shows that additional steps need to be taken in Louisiana to give more babies a healthier start to life,” 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 issue of preterm birth has become too common and too accepted in all of our communities.”

The U.S. preterm birth rate increased for the first time in eight years, resulting in a grade of “C” for the country as a whole. The report also revealed an underlying problem: There is an unfair burden of premature birth among racial and ethnic groups as well as geographic areas. March of Dimes ranks and tracks state progress toward the elimination of racial/ethnic disparities in preterm birth with Louisiana ranking near the bottom at 48.

While the March of Dimes strives for a world where every baby has a fair chance, this is not the reality for many mothers and babies in Louisiana. For example, among parishes in Louisiana where the most babies are born, rates range from 9.9 percent in St. Tammany to 18.6 percent in Caddo. Among black women in Louisiana, the preterm birth rate is 49 percent higher than the rate among all other women in the state.

In the United States, preterm birth accounts for more than $26 billion annually in avoidable medical and societal costs. It will take a multi-faceted, innovative and collaborative approach to address the unfair toll premature birth has on mothers and babies.

The March of Dimes supports eight interventions that when implemented in the most challenged communities can help reduce the preterm birth rate. One effort in Louisiana that is making an impact is providing more women with certain risk factors access to progesterone shots to help prevent preterm birth.

For mothers with a history of preterm birth, a synthetic form of progesterone, 17 Alpha-Hydroxyprogesterone Caproate (17P), has been found to reduce recurrence of preterm birth by 33 percent. Currently, it is estimated that only 5 percent of eligible women in Louisiana, many in the highest need areas, have access to 17P. The March of Dimes supports state efforts to increase access to 20 percent.

Additionally, March of Dimes Louisiana has partnered with the State of Louisiana Maternal and Child Health Department to address health equity head on in the Shreveport area. In 2015, Shreveport had the highest preterm birth rate among the 100 U.S. cities where the most babies are born. This nine parish initiative, Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait®, will launch in December and address health disparities relating to birth outcomes, specifically infant mortality, social determinants of health and health access.

“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,” said Dr. Edward R.B. McCabe, March of Dimes Chief Medical Officer. “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 is unacceptable, but fixable. Our immediate actions will help give all babies a better tomorrow.”

Join the March of Dimes at marchofdimes.org where you can explore prematurity and disparity in your own state; sign up to raise awareness on World Prematurity Day on Nov. 17, and support programs and groundbreaking research attacking the causes of prematurity.