Illinois got low marks on the March of Dimes annual report card on maternal and infant health.
The annual report looked at health issues for mothers and newborns, including premature birth rates across the county. As a nation, the United States received an overall grade of a “C.” March of Dimes President and CEO Stacey Stewart said Illinois ranked below the national average with a “D ” on the report card.
“We have a lot of work to do in Illinois and around the country to deal with the maternal and infant health crisis that we face,” Stewart said.
Some neighboring states also received low grades. Missouri got a “D ” and Kentucky got a “D-.” Other neighboring states did better, both Iowa and Wisconsin received “C” grades and Indiana got a “C-” on the report card.
This is the fourth year in a row nationally that more babies in the United States were born prematurely, according to the report card. With the rate of preterm birth increasing nationally from 9.63 percent in 2015 to 10.02 percent in 2018. In Illinois, the premature birthrate increased from 10.2 in 2015 to 10.7 percent in 2018.
In addition to an increasing rate of premature births, the report showed that more than 22,000 babies die in the U.S. before their first birthday. The March of Dimes said the rate of maternal death and severe pregnancy complications were unacceptably high.
“Premature birth and the consequences of premature birth are the leading causes of death of children between the ages of zero and five,” Stewart said.
The report found the U.S. is among the most dangerous developed nations in which to give birth.
Statistics provided by the March of Dimes showed that about every 12 hours a woman dies due to complications resulting from pregnancy. The group said more than 60 percent of these deaths were preventable, with thousands of others facing life-threatening health challenges.
One new feature of this year’s Report Card was the estimated average cost of preterm birth by state. The average cost of preterm birth in Illinois was $67,000 compared to a national average of $64,815. Nationally, at least $1 out of every $3 spent on preterm birth was for non-clinical services such as intervention, education, social services and labor market losses.
The group called the state of maternal and infant health in the U.S. “unconscionable” and said it must be addressed. March of Dimes said its annual report card was “a public call to action at the national, state and city levels to fight for the health of all moms and babies.”
Stewart said one way for Illinois to do better would be to expand Medicaid coverage for mothers of premature babies. She said that in many cases, Medicaid only covers a mother for up to 60 days after childbirth.
“Some women face health challenges up to a year after a baby is born,” Stewart said. “By dropping them from Medicaid coverage is complicating their health outcomes and making it more difficult for them to access high quality and affordable healthcare.”
The March of Dimes is a nationwide advocacy group for health-related issues for mothers and babies. The organization works to support and fund research, lead programs and provide education and advocacy