Arizona Gets “B” For Babies

This month, the March of Dimes released its 2015 Premature Birth Report Card giving Arizona a “B” grade. The report card, found at marchofdimes.org/reportcard, grades Arizona cities with the greatest number of births on their 2013 preterm birth rates.

The annual report card ranked state cities and revealed Arizona has a 9 percent preterm birth rate. A preterm birth is considered to occur before the 37th week of pregnancy.

“Babies born before their full term of at least 37 weeks can face life-long health problems including developmental delay, breathing, vision and hearing problems,” said Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. “Doctors don’t always know what causes premature birth. But we do know that if a woman is in good health, before and during pregnancy, it can lower that risk.”

According to Arizona Vital Statistics, one out of every eleven Arizona babies was born prematurely in 2014. There are things that women can do to help their health and lower the risk of having a premature baby such as quit smoking and avoid alcohol or drugs; see her health care provider for a medical checkup before pregnancy; maintain a healthy weight; work with her health care provider to control diseases such as high blood pressure or diabetes; get prenatal care early, as soon as she thinks she may be pregnant, and discuss concerns during pregnancy with her health care provider.

“We’re proud to see many premature births prevented, but we still have room for improvement. Still 9 percent of babies are born too soon and not all families are sharing in our success,” Michael Simoni, state director, March of Dimes Arizona Chapter. “But the fact remains, premature birth is one of the greatest causes of death for Arizona’s babies. We need the help of every individual, family and community member to support our women to be healthy as they approach motherhood.”

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed a proclamation for November’s Prematurity Awareness Month outlining the importance of efforts to help expecting moms with a successful delivery.

ADHS administers several programs in an effort to encourage healthy behaviors leading up to and during a pregnancy.

  • Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait – initiative to reduce premature births in Arizona. Visit AzHealth.gov/baby.
  • Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network (CoIIN) – a national effort to improve infant mortality. Arizona supports two CoIIN initiatives, preconception health and Safe Sleep to reduce infant mortality.
  • Strong Families Arizona – a multi-agency system of home visiting programs for pregnant women and families with young children. Visit StrongFamiliesAz.com.
  • WIC – provides nutrition education, breastfeeding support, healthy foods, and referrals to health and social services. VisitAzWIC.gov.
  • ASHLine – supports pregnant women in their efforts to stop smoking. Visit ASHLine.org.
  • Federally qualified health care centers – Arizona has over 150 federally qualified health care centers that can assist pregnant women with comprehensive primary care including dental, mental health and other services. Visithttp://www.aachc.org/what-is-a-healthcare-center/map/

The 2015 Premature Birth Report Card provides rates and grades for major cities or counties in each state, and Puerto Rico. It also provides preterm birth rates by race and ethnicity for each state and applies a disparity index that ranks states. View the entire report card at marchofdimes.org/reportcard.