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Too Many Babies Born Early In Florida

The March of Dimes has  issued its 2015 report card on early births across the country and Florida gets bad grades for its premature birth rates.

The state earned a C this year for having a premature birth rate of 9.9 percent—just about one in every 10 babies born in Florida. The March of Dimes goal is 8.1 percent.

“It’s what’s a predominant killer of babies,” says Dr. Bill Sappenfield, a pediatrician and epidemiologist at the University of South Florida College of Public Health. In addition to being a leading factor in infant deaths, he says all these premature births put babies at much higher risk of disabilities and developmental delays later in life.

“These babies who are born premature in some ways are born behind, and many of them stay behind, and it can really impact their whole life,” says Sappenfield.

The report broke down and graded the premature birth rates in larger cities—many of which did worse than the state average:

  • Cape Coral 11.5% F
  • Clearwater 8.9% B
  • Coral Springs 10.7% D
  • Fort Lauderdale 11.6% F
  • Hialeah 8.2% B
  • Jacksonville 10.8% D
  • Miami 11.3% D
  • Orlando 10.0% C
  • Pembroke Pines 10.2% C
  • St. Petersburg 10.1% C
  • Tallahassee 11.2% D
  • Tampa 10.9% D

Sappenfield says that smoking and obesity make premature birth numbers worse than they need to be. Florida’s high rate of women without insurance also means women who should be seeing doctors ahead of time are not getting the prenatal care they need.
The report found Florida had one of the country’s largest racial disparities. Black women had nearly one-and-a-half times the premature birth rates of their white and Hispanic counterparts. 

The March of Dimes also created a series of heat maps to highlight where premature birth rates were spiking across the state. You can see them in the slideshow at the top of this page.

Public radio. Public health. Public policy.