- Associated Press - Thursday, November 5, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The March of Dimes has given West Virginia low marks for preventing premature births.

West Virginia earned a D on the 2015 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card, which compared the state’s preterm birth rate with the March of Dimes’ goal of 8.1 percent by 2020.

In 2014, West Virginia’s rate was 10.8 percent, up from 10.5 percent the previous year. The 2014 national rate was 9.6 percent, according to the report card.

Three counties’ 2013 preterm birth rates were worse than the statewide rate that year. Kanawha County’s rate of 14.1 percent was the highest in the state, followed by Cabell County at 13.7 percent and Wood County at 12.6 percent.

West Virginia was ranked 35th on a disparity index that measures the gaps between racial and ethnic groups. The preterm birthrate for black residents was 13.8 percent, while the rate for white residents was 10.7 percent.

“This detailed information will show us where we have the greatest need and allow us to meet the unique needs of each community,” Beverly Kitchen, chair of the March of Dimes West Virginia Program Services Committee, said Thursday in a news release. “Our state is not doing as well as we should in preventing premature births and too many of our babies must fight to overcome the health challenges of an early birth.”

Kitchen said premature birth is the top killer of infants.

This month, the March of Dimes West Virginia chapter plans to share steps that businesses can take to help lower the state’s premature birth rates at “Babies, Business and the Bottom Line” events across the state.

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