Premature births are one of the leading causes of infant death in the U.S. Utah is working to combat that statistic by educating women about the risk factors associated with pre-term births.
Utah met and surpassed the goal set by the Healthy Babies President’s Challenge to reduce its pre-term birth rate by 8 percent. Julie Drake, Utah’s March of Dimes Program Director, said Utah received high marks for its work in educating the public about premature birth.
“We basically met the challenge and reduced our rate of preterm births even lower than the 8 percent that we were supposed to by 2014," said Drake.
Compared to 2012, Utah reduced its preterm birth rate by 9.7 percent which is more than the national average.
The March of Dimes report card is a way to assess how a state has done with improving premature birth rates.
“So, we see this as a big plus because the lower the preterm birth rate is, the more babies are getting a healthy start in life," said Drake.
Premature births before 37 weeks of pregnancy are costing the U.S. upwards of $26 billion annually. Preterm babies also have long-term health effects including higher rates of hospitalization, breathing problems, cerebral palsy, and many more health concerns.
According to the March of Dimes Report Card, 30 other states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have also lowered their premature birth rates.
Drake said, “Education plays a big role in it. It’s just educating the public and educating women about the risk factors of preterm birth.”
Drake said she is looking forward to meeting the next challenge.
“So, our next goal is to meet 9.6 percent in preterm births by 2020," said Drake.
Morgan Pratt is a sophomore at Utah State University seeking a degree in Journalism and Communications.