March of Dimes report shines spotlight on Health of moms, babies in Oklahoma

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
11/26/2020 12:00 PM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
March of Dimes Foundation logo COURTESY
ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) – March of Dimes, the nation’s leader in the fight for the health of all moms and babies, has issued its 2020 Report Card amid the coronavirus pandemic and calls for racial justice, shining a spotlight on factors that contribute to maternal and infant health across the U.S. and in Oklahoma.

The U.S. remains among the most dangerous developed nations for childbirth and it’s even more dire for women and babies of color. In Oklahoma the preterm birth rate in 2019 was 11.5%, earning the state an “F” grade. Preterm birth is a leading cause of infant mortality, which has slowly declined nationally over the past few years. Yet, in the U.S., two babies die every hour, and two women die from pregnancy complications every day. The Report Card found that in Oklahoma, 353 babies died before their first birthday in 2018.

Preterm birth and infant mortality rates are worse for moms and babies of color. The Report Card shows significant racial disparities that cut across maternal and infant health. In Oklahoma, Black women had the highest rates of infant mortality at 13.6 per 1,000 live births.

“Although there has been some incremental progress in advancing policies that will address better maternal and infant health care, this progress is not happening quick enough, and is tempered by increasing racial/ethnic health care disparities in preterm birth,” said Stacey D. Stewart, President and CEO of March of Dimes. “At a time of racial awakening in our nation, we must amplify our efforts to decrease deaths and health challenges facing our nation’s moms and babies and enact new policies that support health equity.”

The Report Card grades the U.S., 50 states and Puerto Rico on rates of preterm birth. This year’s Report Card found that nationally the preterm birth rate has increased for the fifth year in a row to 10.2% of births, earning the nation a “C-” compared to last year’s “C” grade. Additionally, the Report Card grades the 100 largest cities based on birth in the U.S. on their preterm birth rates. Oklahoma City received an “F” grade, with a rate of 12.0% for preterm birth.

While there is no single cause to this complex maternal and infant health crisis in the U.S., contributing factors include maternal health and management of preexisting conditions. They also include social determinants of health such as being uninsured, living in poverty and having inadequate prenatal care – which the Report Card shows most often affect women of color. In Oklahoma, 16.2% of women receive inadequate prenatal care; 19.6% of women ages 15-44 are uninsured; and 15.4% of women ages 15-44 are in poverty. Systemic challenges with health care and deeply entrenched structural racism are fueling this health equity gap.

“A priority for March of Dimes is to close the health equity gap across the country,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, Chief Medical and Health Officer, Senior Vice President, and Interim Chief Scientific Officer at March of Dimes. “Using the concrete, detailed evidence in the 2020 Report Card, we can identify common-sense steps to reverse the alarming trends. A part of this work, we recognize a lack of uniform reporting and inconsistent access to real-time maternal and infant health data is impeding progress. Particularly during a pandemic, we need access to robust, uniform data sharing to inform evidence-based strategies that can be implemented across public and private sectors to address the specific needs of this crisis.”

The Report Card includes policy and program recommendations that can help states address disparities and allow women greater access to preventative and essential care and resources during and post pregnancy.

Learn more about the 2020 Report Card at marchofdimes.org/ReportCard.

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