- Associated Press - Saturday, November 14, 2015

TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) - The March of Dimes has given Idaho high marks for its relatively low premature birth rates.

Idaho earned an A on the 2015 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card released earlier this month. It was one of four states to earn the highest grade; the others were Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

The report card compares preterm birth rates with the March of Dimes’ goal of 8.1 percent by 2020.

Overall, Idaho currently met the agency’s goal. However, certain pockets through the state are much higher, reports the Times-News (https://bit.ly/1HI85Cq).

The March of Dimes reports that four counties’ 2013 preterm birth rates were worse than the statewide rate. Canyon County’s rate of 10.1 percent was the highest, followed by Bannock County at 10 percent, Twin Falls County at 9.8 percent and Bonneville County at 9.7 percent.

Meanwhile, Idaho was ranked 20th on a disparity index that measures the gaps between racial and ethnic groups.

Preterm rates among different racial and ethnic groups in Idaho are vastly different: 8.4 percent for whites, 8.8 percent for Hispanics, 10.6 percent for Asians and 11.3 percent for Native Americans.

The higher preterm birth rate in Twin Falls County isn’t surprising because many patients come from surrounding areas to receive care, said Dr. Scott Knight, an associate medical director of the St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center’s neonatal intensive-care unit.

Knight said the Twin Falls hospital delivers more than 1,600 babies each year. On average, the hospital has six to eight babies in the NICU.

Previously, the hospital sent babies born earlier than 32 weeks to their bigger Boise location or to hospitals in Salt Lake City. However, the medical center has recently become equipped to care for preterm babies.

“We have to remember that with 40 percent of prematurity, there’s no known cause,” said Patty Jackson, program coordinator for the March of Dimes’ Idaho chapter.

The issue remains a nationwide concern, Jackson said.

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Information from: The Times-News, https://www.magicvalley.com

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