Pre-term births —babies born before 37 weeks gestation— increased nationally and in Florida for the second consecutive year in 2016 according to preliminary data released recently by the National Center for Health Statistics. Florida’s pre-term birth rate was 10.15% in 2016, compared to 10% in 2015. Nationally, pre-term birth rates were 9.84% and 9.63% for the same periods.
Pre-term birth is the leading cause of infant mortality and can impact the health and development of babies when they survive. Pre-term birth to mothers enrolled during pregnancy is one of the new federal performance measures that will be reported annually for MIECHV-funded home visiting programs.
According to the NCHS report, all of the rise in the overall preterm rate can be attributed to the increase in late preterm births (34–36 completed weeks of gestation). The late preterm rate rose 3% for 2015–2016, from 6.87% to 7.09%. This rate had declined 9% from 2007 (7.51%) to 2014 (6.82%). In Florida, rates for late pre-term birth rose 4% between 2015 and 2016 (from 6.87% to 7.09%). The rise in late pre-term birth has been associated with increases in labor induction and c-section rates. Late pre-term births, which currently account for more than 70% of all pre-term births, are at increased risk of morbidity and NICU admission.
The Florida Association of Healthy Start Coalitions, Inc., which administers the state MIECHV program, is partnering with the March of Dimes and Department of Health in Florida in implementing community-based initiatives to reduce prematurity using a variety of evidence-informed strategies.