According to the March of Dimes, the rate across the commonwealth rose to 9.6 percent past year.
The A grade means that only 8% of babies born in OR in 2016 were preterm, meaning born before 37 weeks gestation. The state has a preterm birth rate of 12.6 percent and was among three other states and the U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico to receive the failing grade.
In North Carolina, black women had a preterm rate of 13.5 percent, 53 percent higher than all other women in the state, the report stated.
Babies born too early can face lifelong problems such as vision loss and intellectual delays. At 10.6 percent, the state received a D grade on the annual report. Jefferson, Lafayette, Orleans, and St. Tammany Parishes also have high rates of preterm births. A cluster of a dozen counties in the northeastern part of the state had premature birth rates of more than 10.8 percent.
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The national premature birth rate is 9.8 percent, earning the country a C.
The 2017 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card is based on the latest data from the National Center for Health Sciences.
Only Miami-Dade County had an improved preterm birth rate among large counties over last year, with a 9.6-percent rate, down from 11.3 percent last year.
"The March of Dimes is dedicated to giving every baby a fair chance for a healthy start in life, and our work is more vital than ever", Stewart said.
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Although North Carolina received a "D", the grade for individual counties for which numbers were available varied.
Nationwide, the rate of premature births increased to 9.8 percent a year ago, from 9.6 percent in 2015. The program was developed with the March of Dimes and the Virginia Department of Health.
According to the report, African American women are 49 percent more likely to deliver preterm compared to white women and American Indian/Alaska Native women are 18 percent more likely to deliver preterm compared to white women. Preterm birth is the leading cause of infant death in the United States, the organization says.
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