March of Dimes gives Alabama “F” when it comes to infant and maternal health

Updated: Nov. 4, 2019 at 8:55 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A new report just out Monday gives Alabama an "F" when it comes to infant and maternal health.

It’s scary not only for expecting mothers, but also for healthcare professionals in our state.

We spoke with one doctor who explains why this failing grade isn’t surprising and what needs to be done to fix it.

“This is a crisis," said Dr. Sara Mazzoni. “This is a call to action that we absolutely as a country, as a state, as a city, as a hospital, wherever you are, we have to do something to improve the health and well-being of women and children.”

That crisis Dr. Mazzoni is talking about is the Prematurity Grade.

The March of Dimes released this grade Monday, evaluating states’ actions to improve maternal and infant health.

“Here in Alabama, instead of improving outcomes for women and babies, we’ve actually gone backwards and our outcomes are worse," said Dr. Mazzoni.

So let’s break the numbers down.

For this 2019 March of Dimes Report card, Alabama is failing with a 12.5 percent pre-term birth rate, which means babies born before 37 weeks.

Alabama ranks the third worst state in the country.

Birmingham failed as a city too, with a pre-term birth rate is at 12.9, which is worse than last year.

“Why is that concerning? A baby that’s born too early will need help eating, breathing, living. Will usually spend time in the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit," said Dr. Mazzoni.

And that’s just the short term effect, which Dr. Mazzoni said is very expensive and challenging not only for families, but also on the healthcare system.

“So these babies that are born too soon turn into humans with long-term health consequences that affect their family and the entire society,” she said.

But Dr. Mazzoni stressed our unequal society is a major contributing factor to our failing grade, adding that the pre-term birth rate among black women is 50% higher than the rate among all other women.

“I think that it’s time that we actually have to start saying these things and talking about it,” Dr. Mazzoni said. “That there is a huge racial disparity as far as pregnancy outcomes in our nation. And I think that by next year, I hope that we can start addressing these things in a more comprehensive way and bring this issue more to the forefront.”

The March of Dimes recommends expanding group prenatal care and medicaid to improve our score.

For a look at this full report card, and to see how other states ranked, click here.

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