March of Dimes 2022 Report Card

Yesterday, the March of Dimes issued its 2022 Report Card on U.S. preterm birth rates, and it tells us that the national rate is now 10.5% — a 4% increase over 2021 and the highest recorded rate since 2007, earning a grade of D+. The report also includes a grade and rates for each state and Puerto Rico.

Increases are  across Black, White, Native American and Asian populations, and the MOD sees many contributing factors — maternal health, access to adequate prenatal care, pandemic-related issues, an increase in Cesarian deliveries, the effects of racism and bias – as well as initiatives that could help bring rates down, including enacting the Black Maternal “Momnibus” Health Act of 2021 and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which among other things would permanently extend Medicare postpartum coverage to 12 months and advance support for midwives and doulas.

They are also calling attention to maternity care deserts – areas of the country that lack maternity care resources, have no hospitals or birth centers offering obstetric care and no obstetric providers — deserts that have grown by 2% since 2020.

Lowering preterm birth rates is a critical action toward lowering the risk of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUIDS): research shows that infants born prematurely have a more than three times higher chance than those born full term of dying before their first birthday of a sudden unexpected infant death, which includes SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths.

Alongside the release of the report, March of Dimes is delivering the Mamagenda for #BlanketChange, an emergency call-to-action to Congress to improve the health of moms and babies. We support all aspects of The Mamagenda, in particular the call for adopting Medicaid expansion and permanently extending Medicaid postpartum coverage to 12 months as authorized under the American Rescue Plan Act. Additionally, the Mamagenda calls for funding for Maternal Mortality Review Committees and Perinatal Quality Collaboratives that work to improve data collection for maternal deaths and make improvements in quality of care and maternal and infant health outcomes.

First Candle joins the March of Dimes in pressing for legislative action, while we continue our own work in the community educating health care providers to see and set aside racial, gender and socioeconomic bias, and working directly with families where they live through our community-based outreach programs.

We are also advancing long-term change through an HHS-funded initiative in partnership with the Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia to assess infant safe sleep policies with regard to structural racism, and develop community-based practices designed to reduce Black infant sleep-related mortality in the Atlanta, Georgia region. The outcomes of this effort will not only affect the region but provide guidance for actions in other parts of the country.

The March of Dimes report card serves as a reminder to us all that a country as developed as the U.S. can, and must, do more to improve maternal and infant health and reduce maternal and infant mortality rates.