PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
November 15, 2013

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

Christie Administration Recognizes World Prematurity Day


Highlights Improvement in State Preterm Birth Rates

To recognize World Prematurity Day, November 17, the New Jersey Department of Health is highlighting efforts to reduce preterm birth rates in the state to ensure more newborns have a healthy start in life. Premature birth can cause long-term intellectual and developmental disabilities for infants. 

Recently, the March of Dimes identified New Jersey's preterm birth initiatives as contributing factors to awarding the state a B grade on its Premature Birth Report Card. This positive progress reflects a steady improvement since 2008, when the state received a D grade. The Garden State's preterm birth rate of 11.2 percent is better than the national rate of 11.5 percent. In addition, New Jersey was one of only 7 states that received a better grade than last year. Overall, the United States received a "C" on the March of Dimes Report Card. 

"New Jersey's progress is the result of a successful collaboration among public and private health care and health partners all working toward a common goal to reduce infant mortality and premature birth rates," said Health Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd. "We will continue to focus on this important goal with a number of new and ongoing initiatives." 

"Evidence shows that improving a woman's health before pregnancy greatly impacts the health of her newborn. The Department of Health has been working to ensure women get the early care they need to have a healthy pregnancy and optimal birth," the Commissioner added. 

Collaborative efforts initiated by the Department of Health include:

  • Providing $13.5 million in grants to community health centers, maternal and child health consortia, local health departments and social services agencies to enroll women into care and ensure these women and their families have access to state assistance programs;
  • Partnering with the March of Dimes in supporting "Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait," an education initiative aimed at reducing preterm birth rates in African-American women in Newark. Funded by Johnson & Johnson, the program works with hospitals, health departments and community organizations to provide education and implement interventions;
  • Forming a perinatal collaborative with the New Jersey Hospital Association in 2009 that continues to work with birthing hospitals on quality initiatives, including efforts to reduce elective deliveries before 39 weeks, which increases the risk of newborn complications;
  • Partnering with the Department of Children and Families to expand Home Visiting Programs to all 21 counties to provide support to a pregnant woman, new mother or father, or other caregiver in the comfort and privacy of their own home  

Additionally, New Jersey has been selected to participate in a collaborative learning network to enhance its efforts to reduce preterm birth. On October 10, the National Governors Association selected New Jersey and four other states-Alabama, Arizona, Nevada, and Virginia- to participate in the final round of a Learning Network on Improving Birth Outcomes. New Jersey will learn the best practices and quality improvement principles of other states and use those strategies to reduce disparities, improve birth outcomes and reduce costs. A total of 13 states have participated in the learning network. 

New Jersey has joined every state in the nation and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to sign a pledge to reduce preterm birth rates by 8 percent by 2014. This reduction translates to 1,000 more babies being born full-term in our state. 

On November 17, partners from around the world will mark the third World Prematurity Day in support of the Every Woman Every Child effort led by United Nations. An estimated 15 million babies are born premature and of those more than a million die as a result of their early birth. Prematurity Awareness events are happening throughout November, Details can be found at marchofdimes.com/NewJersey.



Last Reviewed: 11/15/2013