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Report: Guilford County gets a low grade for its premature birth rate

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Guilford County has received a failing grade from the March of Dimes for its rate of premature births during 2021.

The primary focus of the nonprofit advocacy group’s annual report is the preterm birth rate, although the organization did measure infant mortality and access to clinical care before, during and after pregnancy.

While pregnancy normally lasts about 40 weeks, a preterm birth occurs before the 37th week. The causes vary from substance and tobacco abuse to pregnancies occurring too close together. Typically, when a community’s rate is high, it can be an indicator of disparities in medical care and ethnicity.

The rates for Forsyth (11.9% per 1,000 live births) and Guilford (11.8%) were the highest among the six urban counties that the report detailed — and worse when compared to 2020.

Other counties fared slightly better:

  • Wake received a B+ and an 8.5% rate that was an improvement from 2020.
  • Mecklenburg earned a grade of “C” and a 10% rate that was also better than the year prior.
  • Durham’s 10.3% rate was a decline that got them a “C” grade.

North Carolina as a whole received a “D” and 10.8% rate.

The report determined there was a 14.6% preterm birth rate among Black women. That’s much higher than compared to Hispanics (9.7%), whites (9.6%) and Asian/Pacific Islanders (8.5%).

The group stressed that North Carolina’s overall grade, as well as that of its largest urban counties, could be improved significantly if the Republican-controlled state legislature agreed to expand the state’s Medicaid program.

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