Disparities Gap Slowly Narrowing The 2012 preterm birth rate among non-Hispanic black infants remains the highest of all the racial groups at 16.8 percent, down from 18.5 percent in 2006 and the lowest in more than 20 years. The gap between blacks and whites has been slowly narrowing, but the preterm birth rate among non-Hispanic blacks is still more than 1.5 times the rate of non-Hispanic whites.Preterm birth (before 37 weeks of pregnancy,) is a serious health crisis that costs the US more than $26 billion annually, according to the Institute of Medicine. It is the leading cause of newborn death, and babies who survive an early birth often face the risk of serious and sometimes lifelong health problems, such as breathing problems, jaundice, developmental delays, vision loss and cerebral palsy. Babies born just a few weeks too soon have higher rates of death and disability than full-term babies. Even infants born at 37-38 weeks of pregnancy have an increased risk for health problems compared to infants born at 39 weeks.
- 37 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico reduced the percentage of uninsured women of childbearing age;
- 35 states and the District of Columbia reduced the percentage of women of childbearing age who smoke;
- 28 states the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico lowered the late preterm birth rate, infants born between 34 and 36 weeks gestation.