The March of Dimes released its 2015 Premature Birth Report Card today giving our state a “B” grade. New this year, the annual report card ranked state cities and revealed Arizona has a 9 percent preterm birth rate.

The report card grades Arizona cities with the greatest number of births on their 2013 preterm birth rates. A preterm birth is considered to occur before the 37th week of pregnancy.

According to Arizona Vital Statistics, one out of every eleven Arizona babies was born prematurely in 2014. There are things that women can do to help their health and lower the risk of having a premature baby such as quit smoking and avoid alcohol or drugs; see her health care provider for a medical checkup before pregnancy; maintain a healthy weight; work with her health care provider to control diseases such as high blood pressure or diabetes; get prenatal care early, as soon as she thinks she may be pregnant, and discuss concerns during pregnancy with her health care provider.

The Report Card coincides with a statewide prevention focus on babies born prematurely. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed a proclamation for November’s Prematurity Awareness Month outlining the importance of efforts to help expecting moms with a successful delivery.

ADHS administers several programs in an effort to encourage healthy behaviors leading up to and during a pregnancy.

  • Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait – initiative to reduce premature births in Arizona.
  • Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network (CoIIN)– a national effort to improve infant mortality. Arizona supports two CoIIN initiatives, preconception health and Safe Sleep to reduce infant mortality.
  • Strong Families Arizona – a multi-agency system of home visiting programs for pregnant women and families with young children.
  • WIC – provides nutrition education, breastfeeding support, healthy foods, and referrals to health and social services.
  • ASHLine – supports pregnant women in their efforts to stop smoking.
  • Federally qualified health care centers – Arizona has over 150 federally qualified health care centers that can assist pregnant women with comprehensive primary care including dental, mental health and other services.

The 2015 Premature Birth Report Card provides rates and grades for major cities or counties in each state, and Puerto Rico. It also provides preterm birth rates by race and ethnicity for each state and applies a disparity index that ranks states.