Wisconsin earned a “B” on the 2015 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card, which for the first time graded the state’s cities and revealed persistent disparities between communities and among racial and ethnic groups.
Wisconsin’s preterm birth rate was 9.2 percent in 2014, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. This was up from the March of Dimes 2020 goal of 8.1 percent.
The preterm birth rate, however, is not consistent across the state, as the rates in some areas, including Milwaukee, are trailing behind the state’s rate.
“This detailed information will show us where we have the greatest need and allow us to meet the unique needs of each community,” said Damond Boatwright, regional president and chief executive officer of SSM Healthcare and the March of Dimes board chair in Madison. “We’re proud that our state does a better than average job of preventing premature births. Despite the progress, premature birth is the number one killer of babies and not all of our families are sharing in our success. There are large gaps in the preterm birth rate between communities in our state, and racial and ethnic disparities persist.”
In comparison, the U.S. earned a “C” on the 2015 Report Card. Idaho, Oregon, Vermont and Washington earned “A’s,” 19 states, along with Wisconsin, received a “B,” 18 states and the District of Columbia got a “C,” six others a “D,” and Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Puerto Rico received an “F.”
Wisconsin also ranked 21 on the March of Dimes disparity index, indicating concerns about gaps between racial and ethnic groups in its preterm birth rate. African Americans throughout the state of Wisconsin have a 12.4 percent rate of prematurity, higher than the state average of 9.2 percent.
Maine ranked first on the index with the smallest gaps between racial and ethnic groups in its preterm birth rate, while the District of Columbia had the largest gaps. Among the nation’s top 100 cities with the most births, Portland, Ore., has the lowest preterm birth rate at 7.2 percent.
“The U.S. preterm birth rate ranks among the worst of high-resource countries,” said Jodi Legge, state director for the March of Dimes Wisconsin Chapter. “Worldwide, 15 million babies are born preterm, and nearly one million die due an early birth and its complications. Babies who survive an early birth face serious and lifelong health problems, including breathing problems, jaundice, vision loss, cerebral palsy and intellectual delays. We have to do better.”