Preterm Birth Increases in the U.S. for the First Time in Eight Years Interview with:

Jennifer Howse, Ph.D. President of the March of Dimes Foundation

Dr. Jennifer Howse

Jennifer Howse, Ph.D.
President of the March of Dimes Foundation What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card was created in 2007 to raise awareness of the unfair burden of preterm birth in certain communities and geographic areas in the United States. We also want to monitor progress, or lack of it, towards our goal to lower the national preterm birth rate to 8.1 percent by 2020 and to 5.5 percent by 2030. This year’s Report Card finds that, for the first time in eight years, the nation’s preterm birth rate did not decline – it worsened from 9.57 percent of all live births in 2014 to 9.63 percent in 2015, earning the nation a “C” grade. Seven states — Arkansas, Connecticut, Idaho, Nebraska, New Mexico, Utah, and Wisconsin – received worse grades this year than last year on the Report Card. The March of Dimes strives for a world where every baby has a fair chance for a full-term pregnancy and a healthy birth, yet this is not the reality for many mothers and babies. The 2016 Report Card shows that babies in this country have different chances of surviving and thriving simply based on the circumstances of their birth. Who is disproportionately affected by the risk in preterm births?

Response: Across the country, preterm birth rates were nearly 48 percent higher among black women and more than 15 percent higher among American Indian/Alaska Native women compared to white women. There are no definitive answers as to why this is so, but it is believed that differences between groups are attributable to environmental, social, and economic factors, including exposure to the chronic stress of racism. The March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign Collaborative is convening national experts to better learn how we may eliminate racial/ethnic disparities. In addition, the five March of Dimes Prematurity Research Centers nationwide are investigating a wide variety of factors involved in premature birth, including stress and resilience, diet and lifestyle, as well as vaginal and gut bacteria. By working to discover the root causes of premature birth, the March of Dimes will be able to better develop programs, advocate for policy changes, and drive new primary prevention strategies. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Americans lead the nation in medical research and care, yet the U.S. preterm birth rate still ranks near the bottom of high-resource countries of the world. Lowering the U.S. preterm birth rate to 5.5 percent would put our country among the best of the high-resource countries of the world. We believe this goal can be achieved by broader application of evidence-based interventions in our most-challenged communities, and by innovative research on the causes of preterm birth to develop new strategies for prevention. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: Prematurity is an issue that affects us all. In addition to the unfair toll on mothers and babies, preterm birth accounts for more than $26 billion annually in avoidable medical and societal costs. Visit to find out more about March of Dimes-funded research and tools for health professionals.

Go to to explore prematurity and disparity in your own state. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Preterm Birth Increases In The U.S. For The First Time In Eight Years
2016 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card Reveals Underlying Geographic, Racial/Ethnic Disparities

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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Last Updated on November 1, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD