2012-11-29 / Lifestyles

State to turn focus on premature birth

Michigan’s infant mortality rate high

LANSING – According to the March of Dimes Foundation, every year nearly a half million babies are born too soon in the United States, which can have dire health effects on newborns.

In August, the Michigan Department of Community Health released the Michigan Infant Mortality Reduction Plan that outlines a number of priorities aimed at improving Michigan’s rates. Many of the priorities include adopting policies and promoting practices that will reduce premature births. A significant number of late preterm births can be attributed to high rates of early induction and Cesarean sections.

Currently, Michigan’s infant mortality rate is higher than the national average with 7.1 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. The preterm birth rate, infants born at less than 37 weeks, is 12.4 percent. Nationally, the infant mortality rate is 6.1 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, and the preterm birth rate is 12.2 percent.

“Premature births are linked to lifelong health problems for infants, and premature delivery continues to be the No. 1 cause of newborn death,” said James K. Haveman, director of the MDCH. “Governor Snyder has called on the Michigan Department of Community Health to address infant mortality in our state. One of the ways we will do so is by working with partners like the MHA and the March of Dimes to reduce our state’s prematurity birth rate.”

Working with the MHA and the March of Dimes, Michigan is adopting the March of Dimes’ Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait® campaign as November is National Prematurity Awareness Month. Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait involves working with local health departments, providers, hospitals and physicians across the state to educate Michiganders about the importance of waiting until at least 39 weeks to deliver their baby, if their pregnancy is healthy.

“The last few weeks of pregnancy are really important in a baby’s development. Major organs, like the brain, lungs and liver, are still growing. Eyes and ears are developing. He’s learning to suck and swallow. At least 39 weeks of pregnancy gives a baby all the time he needs to grow before he’s born,” said Kara Hamilton, State Director of Program Services for the Michigan Chapter March of Dimes.

In addition, voluntary efforts led by Michigan hospitals are under way to lower the rates of late preterm birth, which occurs between 34 and 36 weeks gestation. Coordinated by the MHA Keystone Center, hospitals are finding success reducing early inductions and Cesarean sections when not medically necessary before 39 weeks. Between March 2010 and 2012, MHA Keystone Center hospitals reduced elective inductions before 39 weeks by 49 percent and reduced elective Cesarean sections before 39 weeks by 34 percent. To learn more about these initiatives, visit the MHA Keystone Center at http://www.mhakeystonecenter.org/ob.htm .

Also aimed at reducing infant mortality in Michigan, the state now offers pregnant women free counseling to quit using tobacco if they are uninsured or covered under Medicaid. In addition to lowering the risk of premature birth, quitting tobacco use can result in significant health benefits for mothers and infants. Eligible women should call the Michigan Tobacco Quitline at (800) QUITNOW to enroll in the program.

For more information about the Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait® campaign, visit www.marchofdimes.com/39weeks.

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