University of Vermont

Physician Careers

Vermont Receives “A” on March of Dimes 2012 Premature Birth Report Card

Baby in an incubator

Vermont was tops among four states, including Oregon, New Hampshire and Maine – to receive an “A” on the March of Dimes 2012 Premature Birth Report Card issued in mid-November. The U.S. preterm birth rate dropped to the lowest level in a decade – 11.7 percent – for the fifth consecutive year, in 2011, according to an announcement regarding the Report Card.

Worldwide, 15 million babies are born prematurely each year and more than one million of those infants die as a result of their early births.  The U.S. ranked 131 out of 184 countries, according to a May 2012 global report on premature birth issued by the March of Dimes and several partners. While the four states earning an “A” met the March of Dimes 9.6 percent goal and the U.S. preterm birth rate improved, the U.S. as a whole earned a “C” on the Report Card.

In a television news story that aired on New England Cable News (NECN), University of Vermont Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences and Fletcher Allen Health Care obstetrician/gynecologist Roger Young, M.D., said that roughly half of Vermont’s babies are born at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, the state’s largest hospital.

“The Institute of Medicine has estimated that [prematurity] is a $25-billion per year problem, due not only to the immediate care of the pre-term babies, but the long-term disabilities they develop because of the prematurity,” said Young, a member of the national March of Dimes board of trustees, in the news report.

The NECN story stated that Fletcher Allen credits Vermont’s success in reducing prematurity to good early prenatal care, to women cutting back on smoking and reducing obesity, and close communications between care providers, which helps identify complications that can lead to prematurity.

In a press release regarding the Report Card, March of Dimes President Jennifer L. Howse, M.D., attributed the improved rates to an expansion of successful programs and interventions, including actions by state health officials in 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, who formally set goals to lower their preterm birth rates 8 percent by 2014 from their 2009 rate, based on a challenge issued in 2011 by the Association of State and Territorial Health Organizations.

On the 2012 Report Card, 45 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico saw improvement in their preterm birth rates between 2009 and 2011, earning 16 of them better grades. The largest declines in premature birth occurred among babies born at 34 to 36 weeks of pregnancy, but the improvement was across the board. Every racial and ethnic group benefitted, and there were fewer preterm babies born at all stages of pregnancy.

The March of Dimes Report Card compares each state’s preterm birth rate to the March of Dimes goal of lowering the rate to 9.6 percent of all live births by 2020. The Report Card information for the U.S. and states is available online at: www.marchofdimes.com/reportcard.

(Sources: March of Dimes; New England Cable News.)