With one in 10 babies born premature in the state, the National Governors Association (NGA) has targeted Connecticut and three other states for extra help in better developing and coordinating policies to reduce the rate of preterm births. NGA will convene in-state sessions with the selected states to facilitate this process and convene a networking conference for that group of states to share lessons learned and to further their respective planning processes. NGA has selected Kentucky, Louisiana and Michigan, along with Connecticut, to participate in a Learning Network on Improving Birth Outcomes. The goal is to assist states in developing, implementing and aligning their key policies and initiatives related to the improvement of birth outcomes, as measure by the incidence of preterm births and infant mortality.
Of the 41,000 babies born each year in Connecticut, about 4,000 are born preterm. The median gestational age for these babies is 35 weeks -- about a month earlier than the median 39 weeks for a full-term birth. These babies typically weigh 5.5 pounds compared with the full-term rate of 7.5 pounds.
The Learning Network will focus on demonstrated best practices of states that have improved birth outcomes. Participating states will learn about coordinating activities across agencies and options to accelerate the pace of improving outcomes and reducing costs.
The nation's premature birthrate is 11.7% of all live births — the lowest in a decade, according to figures from the National Center for Health Statistics. The March of Dimes has set a goal of 9.6% by 2020. Nationwide, key signs of improvement in the report issued late last year:
- Four states (Vermont, Oregon, New Hampshire and Maine) earned an "A" for meeting the 9.6% goal; in 2010, only Vermont earned the top grade.
- Connecticut, at 10.1%, received a “B” in the report.
- 45 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico posted improved preterm birthrates from 2009 to 2011, earning 16 of them better grades.
- The states with the highest preterm birthrates — Mississippi (16.9%), Louisiana (15.6%), Alabama (14.9%) — are among 48 states, along with Puerto Rico (17.5%) and the District of Columbia (13.7%) that have all formally set goals to lower their preterm rates 8% by 2014 from their 2009 rates.
Connecticut's rate of pre-term births also reflect a racial and ethnic disparity. The pre-term rates are 14 percent among black/African Americans, 12 percent among Latinos and 9.4 percent among whites, according to the state Department of Public Health.
The initiative is part of the Alliance for Information on Maternal and Child Health Services (AIM). AIM is sponsored by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of Health Resources and Services Administration of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
Premature birth is associated with infant mortality as well as a greater risk of learning disabilities and lifelong hearing and visual problems. Some of the major risk factors for having a premature baby are smoking during pregnancy and having a pre-existing medical condition, such as diabetes or hypertension, officials said.