According to the March of Dimes, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the health of babies, the United States is failing to prevent premature births, subjecting thousands of babies to increased risk of developing disability and birth injuries. In its first annual Premature Birth Report Card, which compared each state’s actual preterm birth rate to the national Healthy People 2010 objective, Illinois received a “D.” According to the report, Illinois ranked 31st in the U.S. with a preterm birth rate of 13.1%, which is more than 70% higher than the objective of 7.6%. In addition, the number of preterm births in Illinois increased by 11% between 1995 and 2005. The United States as a whole also received a “D” grade, with no state obtaining an “A” and only one – Vermont – achieving a “B.”
The March of Dimes has identified premature birth as a leading cause of newborn death and a major cause of life-long disabilities such as learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, blindness, hearing loss and other chronic conditions. The report states that some of the factors that contribute to premature birth can be addressed and it identifies several prevention opportunities.