Premature birth rate improves for seventh straight year in Illinois

Staff Report

CHICAGO — The seven-year improvement in Illinois’ preterm birth rate has helped give more babies a healthy start and contributed to the decline of the national prematurity rate. Although Illinois has continued to make progress on prematurity initiatives, Illinois once again earned a “C” on the annual March of Dimes Report Card.

Premature birth, birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy, is a serious health problem that is a leading cause of infant death. This year, the Illinois rate is 11.7 percent, down from 13.3 percent in 2006, the year the national rate peaked.

Babies who survive preterm birth often face a lifetime of health challenges, such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities and prolonged hospital stays that cost the United States more than $26 billion annually, according to the Institute of Medicine.

Since 2006, the March of Dimes has been working to reduce the rate of prematurity, saving babies and minimizing the emotional and financial toll on families.

The decrease in premature birth in Illinois is a testament to the hard work of state and local health departments, hospitals, health care providers and community partners,” said Dr. Bill Grobman, M.D., MBA, chairman of the March of Dimes State Program Services Committee. “Through community-based programing, advocacy efforts and funding scientific research, the March of Dimes is continuing to address the issue of premature birth to ensure that one day, all babies have a healthy start in life.”

A leading factor in the lower prematurity rate in Illinois is a reduced number of pregnant women who smoke. Last year, March of Dimes reported that 18.2 percent of pregnant women in Illinois smoked, but the most recent report lists only 15.6 percent. March of Dimes initiatives contributed to this change by funding community programs on smoking cessation.

As part of a national goal to reduce the preterm birth rate to 9.6 percent by 2020, the March of Dimes is working to eliminate early elective deliveries that are not medically necessary before 39 weeks. This initiative, “Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait,” aims to reduce the number of babies born just a few weeks early as they are still at increased risk for death and disability. Several Illinois hospitals have signed a pledge to reduce this number, resulting in fewer late preterm births this year.

This Prematurity Awareness Month, the March of Dimes Illinois Chapter seeks to raise awareness about the causes and consequences of prematurity. Illinois events include the following:

• Babies, Business and the Bottom Line — a panel discussion evaluating the $12 billion annual cost of prematurity to businesses in the United States;

• Por Nuestros Bebes: Pregnancy & newborn health among Latinos — a networking event discussing Hispanic maternal and child health needs; and

• World Prematurity Day Willis Tower Lighting — the Willis Tower in Chicago will glow purple Nov. 17 in honor of World Prematurity Day.

For more about the Prematurity Report Card, Prematurity Awareness Month and March of Dimes initiatives, visit

Prematurity Report Card

March of Dimes’ Prematurity Report Card grades are based on comparing each state’s and the nation’s 2013 preliminary preterm birth rates with the March of Dimes 2020 goal of 9.6 percent of all live births. The U.S. preterm birth rate is 11.5 percent, a decline of 10 percent from the peak of 12.8 percent in 2006.

The Report Card information for the U.S. and states will be available online at

Posted Nov. 26, 2014

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