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Premature births in the U.S. hit 15-year low, but still called high

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By The Los Angeles Times
Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013, 5:45 p.m.

The rate of premature births dropped slightly in the United States last year, but the country has a ways to go before reaching the March of Dimes' goal of 9.6 percent of babies born prematurely.

Preliminary figures for 2012 show that 11.5 percent of births in the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico occurred before pregnancies reached 37 weeks of gestation. That's a 15-year low and the sixth consecutive year of decline, according to the March of Dimes.

The nonprofit organization, which focuses on pregnancy and baby health, estimates that about 176,000 fewer babies have been born premature since 2006, when the rate of preterm births peaked at 12.8 percent nationwide. That translates to a savings of about $9 billion in health and other costs.

March of Dimes President Jennifer Howse noted “the U.S. still has the highest rate of preterm birth of any industrialized country.”

The March of Dimes gave the country a grade of “C” on its “Premature Birth Report Card,” released on Friday.

The report card identified racial disparities in the rates of preterm births. Nationwide, the proportion of babies born early last year was 10.3 percent among Asian Americans, 10.5 percent among whites, 11.7 percent among Latinas, 13.6 percent among Native Americans and 16.8 percent among blacks.

The statistics used in the report card were culled from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics, the CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and the Census Bureau.

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