Being born too soon is the number one killer of infants in Arizona and in the nation (birth defects is a close second).  Death rates from prematurity are declining but babies born too soon (before 37 weeks) often face medical, developmental and social challenges as they get older. More than 8,000 babies in Arizona were born too soon last year. Our latest March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card was average- but there was good news related to the reduction in the percentage of uninsured women and the number of women who smoke.  

Some of the things that can cause prematurity include diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, and alcohol or drug abuse.  One of our main approaches to reducing prematurity rates is to improve the health of women before they get pregnant- called preconception health.   Prenatal care is still important- but poor health practices during pregnancy will usually trump good prenatal care. 

Our interventions include implementing evidence-based practices to get moms to stop smoking, improve physical activity and nutrition and behavioral health- all are part of our Preconception Health Strategic Plan and our Every Woman Arizona educational materials, grants to implement preconception health strategies, and home visitation programs that address many of the things that lead to prematurity.  Our WIC program and clinics also work with young moms in their reproductive years to improve their health.  We also work with the Arizona March of Dimes and the Arizona Perinatal Trust to encourage hospitals to adopt policies designed to ensure that elective births aren’t approved before 39 weeks gestation. 

BTW… This Saturday is the March for Babies in Phoenix.  The annual fundraiser for the March of Dimes started more than 30 years ago and helps moms in Arizona have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies.  What they’ve accomplished so far is phenomenal and you can help.  ADHS has a team and would love to have you join us or you can donate…  Registration starts at 7 am – it’s at Wesley Bolin Plaza by the Capitol.