DPH Announces Significant Improvement in Georgia’s Preterm Birth Rate

November 1, 2013

ATLANTA – Ongoing efforts to improve preterm birth rates in Georgia are having a significant, meaningful impact. An analysis of data collected by the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) reveals a preterm birth rate of 11.6 percent for the state (2011). Analysis of data collected in 2012 reveals a preliminary rate of 10.9 percent – a difference of nearly 2 percent from what is reflected in a national report.

Georgia earned a grade of “C” in the 2013 Premature Birth Report Card released today by the March of Dimes, which relied upon preliminary data collected through 2012. The report card shows a preterm birth rate of 12.7 percent. Revised, more robust analysis by DPH revealed the lower preliminary rate of 10.9 percent for 2012.

“I’m so proud of our partnership with the March of Dimes,” said DPH Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D. “Together, our work is touching every corner of the state as we work to ensure that more and more Georgia babies are born with a healthier start in life.”

Babies born prior to 37 weeks of completed pregnancy are considered preterm. Babies born between 37 and 39 weeks are considered late preterm. The Georgia Department of Public Health and its partners including the March of Dimes, the Georgia Hospital Association, the Georgia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Georgia OBGyn Society, are working to reduce early elective deliveries at less than 39 weeks.

Premature or preterm birth is a significant public health issue in the U.S., contributing to increased hospitalization and health problems, and is a major factor contributing to newborn death. As of October 1, 2013 Georgia Medicaid no longer pays for early elective deliveries.

Georgia’s preliminary 2012 rate of 10.9 percent means the state is well positioned to meet a goal of 9.6 percent by the year 2020, as set forth by the March of Dimes and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. Georgia has already met a similar goal to reduce premature birth by 8 percent by 2014.

Next Tuesday November 5, 2013 Commissioner Fitzgerald will join Sheila Ryan, State Director of the March of Dimes, in Macon to formally share the information with conference attendees and the news media.