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State Health Officials Want to Lower Pre-term Birthrate in MS

By Daniel Cherry | Published 21 May 2012 07:21pm | comments

Pre-term birth is the leading cause of newborn death and Mississippi leads the nation in infant mortality. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how state health officials hope to increase healthy births in the state.

When Brandi Garrett gave birth to her son Grayson in 2010, he weighed less than 2 pounds.

"Grayson was born on December 29th and he spent 2 months in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). We were able to take him home at the end of February. By the time we took him home he was about 4 pounds."

Garrett's pre-term birth was one of nearly 7 thousand in Mississippi in 2010. Mississippi has the highest premature birth rate in the nation. Dina Ray is Director of the Mississippi March of Dimes. She says pre-term births carry a hefty price tag, costing the state millions of dollars.

"This is costing our state millions, millions of dollars, and I mean upwards of $400 million plus a year because of all of the things that happen when a pre-term baby is born."

Pre-term babies face a much greater risk for breathing problems, cerebral palsy, and learning disabilities. The state department of health has teamed up with the March of Dimes in hopes of lowering the 18 percent pre-term birthrate in Mississippi. Dr. Mary Currier is the state health officer for the Mississippi Department of Health.

"What we're trying to do is improve womens' health even before they're pregnant. To decrease the rate of smoking in these women. To improve their nutrition. To make sure that if they're hypertensive or diabetic that those things are taken care of before they become pregnant."

The March of Dimes says between 1998 and 2008 pre-term births increased by more than 12 percent in Mississippi.

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