November 17th is World Prematurity Day– a great time to raise our voices and advocate for the babies and families we serve.
Per the March of Dimes, “Premature birth and its complications are the largest contributor to death in the first year of life in the United States, and the leading cause of death of children under age 5 worldwide. The preterm birth rate in the United States has increased for the third year, rising 2 percent to 9.93 percent in 2017.”
In the United States, some states have done better than others in either maintaining or decreasing their rate of prematurity. My home state of Ohio continues to receive a D rating (yikes!) on the 2018 Premature Birth Report Card. Learn more about your state (and city/county) here.
Equally or more disturbing are the racial, ethnic, and geographic disparities in access to quality healthcare. When you click on ‘learn more’ in your own state, you can view the race/ethnicity disparity ratio for your state. For example, according to the state report card, “In Ohio, the preterm birth rate among black women is 47% higher than the rate among all other women”. NOTE: If you live in the U.S. please view this ratio for your own state. Even when states have an overall higher score on the report card, often the race/ethnicity disparities remain staggering. For example, “In Washington, the preterm birth rate among American Indian/Alaska Native women is 63% higher than the rate among all other women.”
Most days, your advocacy shows up in real time – every shift, diaper change, feeding, assessment, intervention, conversation with a family, and every new tiny patient that works his way into your heart.
This month, use your voice/social media to raise awareness for babies in a different way. Share the statistics, the gaps in healthcare, and the concern you have for the rise in prematurity rates with your colleagues, friends, people sitting next to you on the plane, and/or politicians. March of Dimes makes it easy to gather and share the info.
As neonatal professionals, you already do so much. However, few people on the planet can translate the needs of premature infants and families as clearly and authentically as you can.
Your voice is needed. Your participation is meaningful.