JACKSON, Miss. – Mississippi recently received a national award for successfully lowering the preterm birth rate by 11 percent since 2009, giving more babies a healthy start in life.
The March of Dimes Virginia Apgar Award recognizes states that accepted and met a challenge to lower their preterm birth rates by at least 8 percent between 2009 and 2014.
During this challenge, Mississippi preterm birth rates declined by 11 percent. Black infants born at less than 34 weeks saw the greatest decline at 16 percent. Mississippi also saw an 18 percent increase in the number of babies born at full term (over 39 weeks).
“This award is a reflection of the effort and dedication of health care providers of maternal and newborn care and health care organizations throughout our state. This is an important step in reducing our high infant mortality rate” said Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) State Health Officer Dr. Mary Currier.
“We congratulate Mississippi, MSDH and all of our collaborative partners on the work they have done to give babies a fighting chance,” said Dina Ray, State Director of the Mississippi Chapter of the March of Dimes. “When infant health becomes a priority, families and babies benefit.”
According to the March of Dimes, preterm birth is the number one killer of babies. Babies who survive an early birth often have lifelong health problems such as cerebral palsy, vision and hearing loss, and intellectual disabilities. The final weeks of pregnancy are crucial to a baby’s health because many vital organs, including the brain and lungs, are still developing.
MSDH and several community healthcare partners have worked together to reduce this problem by providing access to timely and adequate prenatal care, as well as urging moms-to-be to reduce smoking and second-hand smoke exposure, and improving use and availability of progesterone therapy to prevent preterm births. MSDH’s Perinatal High-Risk Management program identifies women at greater risk of premature delivery and connects them to needed services.
MSDH has also partnered with the March of Dimes to recognize hospitals that reduce elective deliveries unless they are medically necessary – 39 of the 44 delivering hospitals in Mississippi have taken the pledge.
The award is named in honor of Virginia Apgar, MD, who developed the five-point Apgar score to evaluate an infant’s health at birth, and who served as Vice President for Medical Affairs for the March of Dimes from 1971-1974.
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