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March of Dimes gives Alabama failing grade on preterm births

Newborn babygirl lying on mother surrounded by nurses and father in hospital

Monday, the March of Dimes issued its 2019 March of Dimes Report Card that reveals Alabama’s current state of maternal and infant health. The group gave Alabama an “F” for its preterm birth rate, one key indicator of maternal and infant health. Beyond preterm birth, the Report Card includes a new focus on maternal health and highlights solutions and policy actions that they believe can make a difference.

This year’s Report Card provides a more comprehensive view of the health of moms and babies—as their health is deeply intertwined—across the country, for major cities, each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. overall.

The preterm birth rates increased in Alabama to 12.5 percent. This compares to a rate of 12 percent from the previous year. Overall, preterm birth rates in the U.S. increased for the fourth straight year in a row, earning the nation a “C” grade. Alabama ranked as the third worst state in the country.

The U.S. is among the most dangerous developed nations in which to give birth. Beside the increasing rates of preterm birth, each year, 22,000 babies die in the U.S. Two babies die each hour on average. The rates of maternal death and severe pregnancy complications also are unacceptably high. Approximately every 12 hours, a woman dies due to complications resulting from pregnancy. The March of Dimes says that more than 60 percent of these deaths are preventable. Thousands of others face life-threatening health challenges.

“Every American should be alarmed about the state of maternal and infant health in this country, because it is an issue that touches each one of us,” said March of Dimes President and CEO Stacey D. Stewart. “This is one crisis, not two. The health of moms and babies is powerfully linked, and we need to start treating it as such. This crisis is about the moms and babies we have lost, and those who face serious health challenges. It’s not fine. But with your help, it can be. Join us this Prematurity Awareness Month in the fight for all moms and babies.”

This year’s Report Card has new features including more fine-grained distinctions with a plus or minus grade for preterm birth, select social determinants of health to highlight the inequalities that negatively affect moms and babies and the estimated average cost of preterm birth. The Report Card also includes an added focus on maternal health as it relates to prematurity by highlighting solutions and policy actions that can make an impact.

The March of Dimes recommends that Alabama expand programs with proven success in improving birth outcomes, like group prenatal care. The March of Dimes has expanded Supportive Pregnancy Care, its flexible group prenatal care program, to the Simon Williamson Clinic to serve western and central Alabama so that more families can get the best possible start.

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The March of Dimes also recommends that the state fully fund the Maternal Mortality Review Committee at the state level. The Maternal Mortality Review Co mittee, in which March of Dimes Alabama participates with other thought leaders, attempts to understand and address the causes of maternal death.

The March of Dimes also recommends that Alabama addresses chronic inequities and unequal access to quality health care which they say contributes to higher rates of maternal and infant health complications, including addressing the limited access to obstetric care in rural communities across Alabama.

The March of Dimes also recommends that the state ensures that women have access to public health insurance programs throughout their life course, specifically before, during and after pregnancy. They also recommend that the state support statewide efforts of the Alabama Perinatal Quality Collaborative.

Britta Cedergren is the March of Dimes Director of Maternal Child Health & Government Affairs for Alabama.

“The health of moms and babies in Alabama must be a priority issue for all of us,” Director Cedergren said. “By working together, as individuals and across the public and private sectors, we can make significant changes that can give every mom the care she deserves and every baby the best possible start.”

In Alabama, March of Dimes resources are a part of a number of programs to support moms and babies. Supportive Pregnancy Care is the March of Dimes group prenatal care program. It serves west and central Alabama through the Simon Williamson Clinic. The March of Dimes also collaborates with other thought leaders on the Maternal Mortality Review Committee and Alabama Perinatal Quality Collaborative Steering Committee to understand and address the causes of maternal death. The group also provides post-partum screening tools in non-traditional settings, such as phone applications and family medicine clinics during well-baby visits in Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, and Opelika. The March of Dimes also collaborates with agencies statewide to lobby for policies that support the health and wellbeing of Alabama families, like ensuring that women have access to public health insurance programs.

To learn more about the March of Dimes visit their website:

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Written By

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.



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