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Missouri Sets a Goal of Reducing Premature Births

The State of Missouri has set a goal to reduce the rate of premature babies and infant mortality by eight percent by the year 2014. KSMU’s Shane Franklin has the story.

According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, of the 80,000 babies born in Missouri each year, 10,000 of are born premature--that's one in eight.

The department plans to meet its goal by nurturing programs and policies aimed at reducing the premature birth rate. If the department meets its goal, then 800 less babies will be born premature in 2014 than in 2011.

Mary Elizabeth Grimes is the State Director for March of Dimes, an organization that researches issues that affect the health of babies.

“We are very pleased to know that the Department of Health and Senior Services is committed to that.”

Grimes says that one of the leading factors of premature births in Missouri is smoking.

“We still have many mothers who smoke while they are pregnant. Another critical aspect to this is, some people may say ‘Well, I don’t smoke,’ but if they’re in a smoking environment, that also impacts the birth of the child.”

She says smoke causes a mother’s blood to be restricted, so fewer nutrients are able to be delivered to the baby.

The state’s goal is coupled with a bill signed by Governor Jay Nixon in 2011 which created the Missouri Task Force on Prematurity and Infant Mortality.

Next month is Prematurity Awareness Month; that's when the March of Dimes releases a report card for states on their premature birth rates.  Right now, Missouri has a "C" grade. To improve to a "B" rating, the Show-Me State would need to fall below the 11.2 percent mark of babies born premature.

For KSMU News, I’m Shane Franklin.