Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) leaders are pledging their support to give more babies a healthy start in life by accepting a challenge to lower the state’s pre-term birth rate eight percent by 2014.
The challenge was issued by Association of State and Territorial Health Officers (ASTHO) President Dr. David Lakey, and is endorsed by the March of Dimes. The goal is to lower Mississippi’s pre-term birth rate to 16.6 percent. In 2009, the baseline year, 18 percent of babies in Mississippi were born pre-term. Mississippi leads the nation in pre-term births.
MSDH and the March of Dimes are working with the Mississippi Chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Mississippi Hospital Association, the Division of Medicaid, and the University of Mississippi Medical Center to increase healthy births in Mississippi.
“We proudly join our partners in accepting the challenge to lower our pre-term birth rate,” said State Health Officer Dr. Mary Currier. “Mississippi is number one in pre-term births and in infant mortality. Working together, we can significantly improve the health of our babies. By improving the health of women before they are pregnant, improving maternal access to health care, lowering maternal smoking rates, and ending early elective deliveries, we can contribute significantly to a decline in pre-term birth rates.”
Pre-term birth is defined as birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy. It is the leading cause of newborn death, and one million babies worldwide die each year as a result of their early birth. Babies who survive an early birth often face the risk of lifelong health challenges, such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities and others. In 2010, in Mississippi, 6,802 babies were born too early.
“There is no single answer to the issue of pre-term birth, but we applaud State Health Officer Dr. Mary Currier for accepting this huge commitment to address the problem,” said Dina Ray, State Director of the Mississippi Chapter of the March of Dimes. “By reducing the overall rate of pre-term births in the state by 2014, we should be able to bring about a healthier population of babies and provide financial savings to our state.”
In Mississippi, health officials are tackling pre-term birth and infant mortality by:
- Lowering smoking rates among pregnant women
- Ending elective C-section deliveries, and inductions before 39 weeks
- Making 17-hydroxyprogesterone (17P) available to pregnant women at high risk for pre-term deliveries
- Improving preconception care
- Regionalizing perinatal care around the state
- Encouraging safe sleep environments
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