The Ocean State is being honored by March of Dimes Monday for its work in reducing premature births. Preterm births have dropped by 10 percent between 2010 and 2015 — down to 8.6 percent.
Spokesman for the state’s Department of Health, Joseph Wendelken, attributes the drop to work done by a state task force on premature birth.
“Smoking cigarettes, using illicit drugs, nutritional issues, stressful life events-- all of those things have impacts on having a preterm birth,” said Wendelken. “So the task force has really been working hard to communicate some of those messages to women and families throughout the state.”
Improvements in care for high- risk pregnancies, like those that commonly result from in vitro fertilization, have also helped drive premature births in the state below the national average of 9.6 percent.
Wendelken said although overall preterm births have dropped across the state, some communities still experience higher numbers of premature births.
“We continue to see disparities in preterm birth rates. Even though we have seen this drop among everyone, there is still a higher preterm birth rate in African- American and Latinos in Rhode Island,” said Wendelken.
Wendelken said the Health Department plans to focus their outreach efforts in these communities.