OR gets A for Premature Birth Report Card

M. Spencer Green  AP

After almost a decade of decline, the US rate of preterm birth - the largest contributor to infant death in the country - increased again in 2016 for the second year in a row, according to a new report from the March of Dimes. A cluster of a dozen counties in the northeastern part of the state had premature birth rates of more than 10.8 percent. The index was developed by the March of Dimes Perinatal Data Center and is calculated for each US state with adequate numbers, the District of Columbia and the total United States.

Prematurity and low birth rate were the leading cause of infant death in the state in 2016, according to the North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics.

The U.S. preterm birth rate increased from 9.6 percent of births in 2015 to 9.8 percent in 2016, according to the report. The March of Dimes says South Carolina's preterm birth rate is higher than one year ago, at just over 11 percent.

"The March of Dimes is dedicated to giving every baby a fair chance for a healthy start in life, and our work is more vital than ever", Stewart said.

Only Miami-Dade County had an improved preterm birth rate among large counties over last year, with a 9.6-percent rate, down from 11.3 percent last year.

Fresno County's preterm birth rate is the highest in California, according to a new study.

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Of the Louisiana parishes with the greatest number of births, Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes were the only two to receive non-failing grades.

11 states and the District of Columbia received a "D" grade for preterm birthrates between 10.4 and 11.4 percent.

Alabama and West Virginia also earned failing grades, as did Puerto Rico.

Only four states received an A: Washington, Oregon, New Hampshire and Vermont. An additional 8,000 babies were born prematurely in 2016 due to the increase in the preterm birth rate between 2015 and 2016, the March of Dimes stated.

The report also highlights the significant racial disparity among preterm births in Florida.

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