Report On Prematurity Grades Cities/Counties; Focuses On Racial And Ethnic Disparities

For the First Time Washington State Earns an "A" on the 2015 March of Dimes Prematurity Report Card; Racial Disparities Persist

Nov 05, 2015, 00:01 ET from March of Dimes

SEATTLE, Nov. 5, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Seattle is a leader in the state and in the nation in preventing preterm birth and giving more babies a healthy start in life, according to the 2015 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card, which for the first time graded cities and counties and revealed persistent racial and ethnic disparities within the state. 

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Seattle's preterm birth rate was 8.1 percent, earning the city an "A" on the report card securing this top mark along with only three other cities on the national report card including Portland, OR; Oxnard, CA; and St. Paul, MN.  Within the state, Tacoma and Spokane got a "B" for their rates of 8.4 percent and 8.6 percent respectively in 2013, the most recent year statistics were available for large cities.   Benton and Franklin counties earned a "D" and a "C" with the worst preterm birth rates in the state at 10.7 percent and 9.8 percent.

Washington state earned an "A" for the first time on the 8th annual report card with a preterm birth rate of 8.1 percent in 2014, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The state met the March of Dimes 2020 goal early, avoiding hundreds of early births and saving millions in health care costs, the organization's leaders said.

The March of Dimes says progress in the state premature birth rate came through bold leadership and the implementation of programs and policies by state and local health departments, hospitals, healthcare providers and community-based organizations. Also, a more accurate method of measuring pregnancy length recently was adopted by the National Center for Health Statistics. The new measurement already is used by most other high-resource countries.

"We are proud of the progress that has been made in the health and well-being of our children.  However, there is more work to do," said Secretary of Health John Wiesman, DrPH, MPH. "Working with partners such as the March of Dimes has allowed us to transform public health to achieve meaningful results for our state.  However, as the data reveals, not all families share equally in this success.  Therefore not only are we committed to making healthcare accessible and results driven, but we are also dedicated to addressing the racial and ethnic disparities that create these inconsistent outcomes.  Our goal at the Department of Health is to help build the communities that will lead to Washington's healthiest next generation, beginning with our community's most vulnerable members, our babies." 

Washington state ranked 28th on the disparity index with a score of 25 to indicate the gaps between racial and ethnic groups in its preterm birth rate.  The White population had the lowest preterm birth rate at 7.8 percent with the Native American population having the highest preterm birth rate at 11.9 percent. 

"Achieving an "A" for the first time in our state means that we have saved babies lives, and that is at the heart of what we are doing," said State Director of Program Services Gina Legaz with the March of Dimes.  "The Washington Chapter has been working on the issue of racial disparities in preterm birth for more than five years.  Our ongoing partnerships with grantees such as Swedish Family Medicine Residency Cherry Hill that implement evidenced-based programs like CenteringPregnancy will help us to do this lifesaving work and tackle the racial and ethnic disparities that persist."

  • On November 5th the March of Dimes Washington Chapter is holding a press conference at Swedish Cherry Hill to present Secretary of Health John Weisman with the prestigious FDR Award from the March of Dimes in honor of achieving the 2020 goal of 8.1 percent prematurity birth rate early.  Additionally, participants and media will be able to visit a CenteringPregnancy prenatal care group to see firsthand one of the programs that helped achieve this recent success.  To attend contact Marla Ellis at or 206-452-6639.
      November 17th, you can see the Pacific Science Center arches and One and Two Union Square in Seattle shining in purple light to symbolize hope for a healthy start for more babies.

    The U.S. preterm birth rate ranks among the worst of high-resource countries, the March of Dimes says. The U.S. received a "C" on the March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card with a rate of 9.6 percent.  Worldwide, 15 million babies are born preterm, and nearly one million die due to early birth or its complications. Babies who survive an early birth often face serious and lifelong health problems, including breathing problems, jaundice, vision loss, cerebral palsy and intellectual delays.

    For more information go to:

    For a multi-media news release with video, hi-res photos, links, and documents about the Report Card go to:

    The March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. For the latest resources and information, visit or Find us on Facebook and Twitter.

    Marla Ellis, March of Dimes,, 206-452-6639
    Mary Beth Lowell, Swedish,, 206-386-3547
    Kathy Chapman, Washington State Department of Health, 360-236-3968


    SOURCE March of Dimes