Preterm birth rate up across Virginia

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After almost a decade of decline, the preterm birth rate in the United States has risen for the second year in a row, the March of Dimes reports. The report card compares a state's rate - 10.4 in North Carolina and 11.2 in SC - to the organization's national goal of 8 percent by 2020.

The change matters because early births increase chances of death, disability or lifelong health problems. Broward got a C for its 10.3-percent rate, and Palm Beach also got a C with 9.9 percent.

East Baton Rouge Parish is second only to Caddo Parish among the parishes with the worst rates of preterm births in Louisiana.

MS has the highest rate nationwide at 13.6 percent.

Caddo (17 percent), East Baton Rouge (12.3 percent), Lafayette (11.6 percent), and Orleans (11.9 percent) parishes all had failing grades. Preterm birth rates in Jefferson, Lafayette, and St. Tammany parishes have worsened, the report says.

When babies are born early, they face a greater likelihood of dying before their first birthday, and ongoing health issues for life that include breathing problems, vision loss, cerebral palsy and intellectual delays.

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More local babies are being born too soon, making Duval County the worst in the state among large counties for premature births, according to a new report released on Wednesday. Preterm births account for more than $26 billion annually in avoidable medical and societal costs, according to the National Academy of Medicine.

Among African-Americans, 16 percent of MS children are born early, compared to 11 percent among whites.

Black mothers are more likely than women of other races or ethnicities to give birth early.The rate for black women is 13.5 percent.

Although North Carolina received a "D", the grade for individual counties for which numbers were available varied.

The U.S. preterm birth rate went up from 9.6 percent of births in 2015 to 9.8 percent in 2016, according to final data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

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