Healthy growth and development in children begins before birth. In fact, the most important predictor of a child’s survival and health is the length of gestation. Babies born preterm (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) face a higher risk of long-term disabilities, including intellectual and developmental disabilities, cerebral palsy, lung problems, and vision and hearing loss.
After watching the number of preterm births in Kentucky increase for more than a decade, preliminary data suggest the Commonwealth’s rate may be improving. Though the 2007 to 2009 data is subject to change (once all births by Kentucky mothers in neighboring states are accounted for), it appears that Kentucky’s preterm birth rates have fallen from a high of 13 percent down to 11 percent.
In 2009, the percent of preterm births varied in counties across the Commonwealth from fewer than 8 percent in Adair, Boone, Clinton and Livingston Counties to greater than 25 percent in Lawrence and Martin Counties. To see how your county is faring on preterm births, view the 2011 County Data Book here.
Currently, Kentucky has effective programs focused on reducing preterm births that need continued support, including:
- The Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait initiative; and
- The Health Access Nurturing Development Services (HANDS) program.
It is also vital to explore other proven solutions to reduce preterm births, such as: addressing the impact of physically demanding workplaces to lessen the trauma to pregnant women; employing poverty reduction strategies like a state refundable Earned Income Tax Credit so low-income working families can keep more of their earnings and thus afford necessities like health insurance; and focusing on neighborhoods’ proximity to environmental toxins that contribute to poor pregnancy outcomes.
We can all give hope to babies born too soon and support programs and research that help moms have healthy, full-term pregnancies by participating in the March of Dimes’ annual March for Babies. Click here for a chronological list of upcoming March for Babies walks in Kentucky, and here to find events by zip code.
Kentucky Youth Advocates thanks the KIDS COUNT Data Sponsor UK HealthCare Women’s Health Obstetrics & Gynecology for their support of this KIDS COUNT indicator.