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Maryland: Healthier Mothers, Healthier Babies

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

There is good news for babies born in Maryland, says the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH). The number of babies born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) dropped by over 4 percent from 2006 to 2007 according to the Center for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics. Premature births were down in all racial and ethnic groups in the state. Similarly, the percentage of low birth weight babies (born at less than 2500 grams or 5 pounds) in Maryland fell by over 3 percent in 2007.

“These key indicators show that the health of Maryland’s mothers and their babies is improving ahead of the national curve,” said DHMH Secretary John M. Colmers. “Yet, we know there is much more to do to ensure every pregnant woman gets the care she needs so every child has a healthy start in life.”

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The latest 2007 numbers suggest that Maryland program, “Babies Born Healthy” is having a positive impact. Maryland’s broad public health initiative increases access to health services for women before they become pregnant, improves patient safety for mothers and infants in Maryland hospitals, establishes strong standards for obstetrical and neonatal care, and promotes access to high-risk pregnancy care through partnerships with the state’s academic medical centers.

Compared to Maryland’s numbers, both premature births and low birth weight dropped by just 1 percent nationally in 2007, according to the CDC’s Vital Statistics Report of Preliminary 2007 Birth data. The decrease seen in Maryland’s premature and low birth weight babies is significant because these are the leading causes of infant deaths in the first year of life.

“This confirms that Maryland’s comprehensive approach is making a positive difference,” says DHMH Deputy Secretary for Public Health, Frances Phillips,. “Our goal now is to extend this success to improve the health of every pregnant mother and newborn in Maryland. Also, we must we regain the progress we’ve seen in recent years in reducing teenage births.”

Unfortunately, some teen birth rates increased slightly in 2007 - both in Maryland and across the United States - according to data also released by the CDC. Teen births in Maryland remain well below the national average at 33.6 births per thousand females age 15 to 19, compared to 41.9 per thousand nationwide. In the youngest age group, age 10 to 14, births fell in Maryland in 2007 while they remained stable nationally. Although teen births have increased slightly for the past two years, there has been a substantial decrease since 2000. Maryland teen births have fallen 17 percent since 2000, with a 12 percent decline nationally over the same period.