Each year, the March of Dimes issues “report cards,” which summarize the effectiveness of individual states’ efforts to prevent premature birth and its associated complications. These report cards include both written commentary and a letter grade.
For the year of 2018 (these reports were released only recently), Georgia got an “F.” It was among six states to receive this grade; the others were Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and West Virginia (1).
In 2018, 11.5% of live births in Georgia were preterm. The rate of prematurity in Georgia has been steadily increasing since 2013, when it was at 10.7, and is several percentage points away from the March of Dimes’ goal of 8.1% by 2020. The city of Atlanta is doing especially poorly, with an 11.9% preterm birth rate.
There are also significant racial disparities; black mothers in Georgia have a 45% higher risk of delivering prematurely than do mothers of all other races combined (2). There are also large disparities for maternal and infant mortality (1). In part, this may be due to factors such as poverty, a lack of health insurance, and inadequate prenatal care, all of which are significant problems in Georgia.
March of Dimes also notes that,
“…income, health insurance status and prenatal care access are traditionally considered protective factors, but if they are held constant, racial and ethnic disparities persist. March of Dimes is collaborating with others to confront social and structural determinants of health, while identifying solutions that help alleviate the negative impacts of such inequities” (2).
The impacts of preterm birth
Preterm birth is the most significant contributor to infant death (1). Additionally, those who survive are at greater risk of sustaining birth injuries and subsequent health conditions such as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) and cerebral palsy (CP). In many cases, these conditions are also associated with acts of medical malpractice during or near the time of birth (3).
Prevention of premature birth: March of Dimes recommendations
In order to combat high rates of prematurity and other maternal/infant health crises, March of Dimes recommends the following actions (2):
- Expanding Medicaid: Studies have shown that improved access to health insurance through Medicaid can improve health outcomes and reduce racial disparities in premature birth. March of Dimes also notes that extending Medicaid coverage to all women for at least one year after giving birth can help to prevent maternal complications and deaths.
- Offering group prenatal care enhanced reimbursement: Research indicates that group prenatal care can improve the health of mothers and babies.
- Establishing maternal mortality review committees: March of Dimes notes that this is “essential to understanding and addressing the causes of maternal death.”
March of Dimes has also stressed the importance of understanding the link between maternal and infant health issues. In a recent statement, president and CEO Stacey Stewart said, “This is one crisis, not two. The health of moms and babies is powerfully linked, and we need to start treating it as such” (1).
What is the state of Georgia doing to improve maternal-infant health?
The Georgia Maternal Mortality Review Committee has recommended extending Medicaid coverage up to a year postpartum, in line with the March of Dimes’ recommendation. The aim of this expansion is to manage health conditions before they increase in severity and/or a woman becomes pregnant again.
Additionally, the March of Dimes, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies recently collaborated on a Black Infant Health Summit in Atlanta, Georgia. This summit provided information on infant health issues, including the importance of reducing prematurity rates. They are also working to provide fraternities, sororities, and faith-based organizations in Atlanta with evidence-based tools to improve the health of women and infant members (1).
About ABC Law Centers
ABC Law Centers was established to focus exclusively on birth injury cases. A “birth injury” is any type of harm to a baby that occurs just before, during, or after birth. This includes issues such as oxygen deprivation, infection, and trauma. While some children with birth injuries make a complete recovery, others develop disabilities such as cerebral palsy and epilepsy.
If a birth injury/subsequent disability could have been prevented with proper care, then it constitutes medical malpractice. Settlements from birth injury cases can cover the costs of lifelong treatment, care, and other crucial resources.
If you believe you may have a birth injury case for your child, please contact us today to learn more. We are happy to talk to you free of any obligation or charge. In fact, clients pay nothing throughout the entire legal process unless we win.
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- ‘F’ for Georgia in preventing preterm births. (n.d.). Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.statesboroherald.com/local/f-for-georgia-in-preventing-preterm-births/.
- (n.d.). Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.marchofdimes.org/peristats/tools/reportcard.aspx.
- Premature Birth and Its Prevention. (n.d.). Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.abclawcenters.com/practice-areas/prenatal-birth-injuries/premature-birth-and-prevention/.