Premature birth, or birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy, is the leading cause of the death of babies in the U.S. The March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card indicates mothers in this state are more likely to have premature births, based on their race and neighborhood.
According to data from 2016, 8,000 more babies were born premature nationwide than in 2015.
Preterm birth rates worsened in 43 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico among all racial and ethnic groups, according to the report.
Babies who survive an early birth often face serious and lifelong health problems. The report released Wednesday found that's up from 13 percent in 2015. The rate for white women is 9 percent.
To calculate the disparity index, the lowest preterm birth rate among the displayed racial/ethnic groups is identified for a geographic area and used as the comparison rate.
"But what we also know is there is a disproportionate impact on babies of color", said March of Dimes President, Stacey Stewart. A cluster of a dozen counties in the northeastern part of the state had premature birth rates of more than 10.8 percent.
The premature birth rate was 9.57 percent in 2014, according to the March of Dimes.
First, though, the collaborative is addressing the results of the opioid epidemic that last year contributed to 770 babies born in Virginia last year with neonatal abstinence syndrome. "This is an unacceptable trend that requires immediate attention".
Although North Carolina received a "D", the grade for individual counties for which numbers were available varied.
According to the report, African American women are 49 percent more likely to deliver preterm compared to white women and American Indian/Alaska Native women are 18 percent more likely to deliver preterm compared to white women. The index was developed by the March of Dimes Perinatal Data Center and is calculated for each US state with adequate numbers, the District of Columbia and the total United States.
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