- Associated Press - Friday, November 6, 2015

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A new national survey by the March of Dimes finds Louisiana continues to get a failing grade when it comes to the number of premature births.

Louisiana received an F on the report card that for the first time also graded the state’s cities.

Louisiana’s pre-term birth rate was 12.3 percent in 2014 - far shy of the March of Dimes 2020 goal of 8.1 percent. Baton Rouge and Shreveport had pre-term birth rates that were worse than the statewide rate - 13 percent and 18.8 percent, respectively. New Orleans and Lafayette were better than the state rate at 12.1 percent and 10.4 percent.

Babies born prematurely have medical problems that often continue impacting their quality of life, while dramatically driving health care costs up.

“Louisiana still has much work to do, and too many of our babies must fight to overcome the health challenges of an early birth. Premature birth is the number one killer of babies and many of our families still face that fear,” Frankie Robertson, director of the March of Dimes Louisiana told The Advocate (https://bit.ly/1GOvGRS).

The March of Dimes is working with the state Department of Health and Hospitals on ways to decrease pre-term births.

The F grade is not new for Louisiana, which consistently ranks among the worst states in the U.S. on premature births.

DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert said despite the poor grade, “major strides” are being made in reducing pre-term births.

“The changes we are implementing don’t show immediate results in the data, but we are confident that the rate in future years will reflect the changes we’ve made for Louisiana babies and their families,” Kliebert said in a statement.

Louisiana is improving birth outcomes by adopting Medicaid standards that do not allow elective births before 39 weeks of gestation and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana has adopted a voluntary 39-Week Initiative, Kliebert said. The efforts resulted in thousands fewer babies needing to spend time in neonatal intensive care units and over $12 million in taxpayer dollars saved, DHH reported.

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Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com


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