Despite these challenges, we’re making steady progress. This week, the March of Dimes will release its annual state premature birth report cards, which show that the U.S. prematurity rate dropped for the fifth straight year. The nation’s preterm birth rate now stands at 11.7 percent, down from its peak in 2006 of 12.8 percent. These improved rates mean not just healthier babies, but an estimated savings of about $3 billion in annual health care and economic costs to society. We’re proud that both of our home states have made important progress toward reducing preterm birth rates. California has reduced its preterm birth rate from a high of 10.9% to 9.8%, while New Jersey has reduced its rate from its peak of 12.9% to 11.7%.
Congress took action in 2006 by passing the PREEMIE Act, which brought unprecedented national focus to prematurity prevention. For the first time, the law called for the development of a comprehensive public-private national agenda to spur innovative research at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to support evidence-based interventions to prevent preterm birth. The progress made during the past five years is the direct result of public and private investments on the federal, state and community levels—including working with hospitals and doctors to identify and promote quality improvement initiatives to reduce elective deliveries before 39 weeks of pregnancy. But our work is far from over; the premature birth rate is still too high.
Reauthorizing the PREEMIE Act will continue to fuel progress in reducing our nation’s premature birth rate by supporting federal research and promoting known interventions and community initiatives.
It will take action by all of us on the federal, state and community levels to continue our progress toward preventing premature birth. For the sake of the over 4 million babies who are born across the United States every year, we must reauthorize the PREEMIE Act to ensure that each and every one of them has a healthy start in life.
Reps. Eshoo and Lance are original co-authors of the bill.