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San Diego Gets High Marks For Preventing Premature Births

Evening Edition Host Peggy Pico speaks with Victoria Lombardo, associate state director of program services for the March of Dimes, and Dr. Anup Katheria, director of Sharp March Birch's Neonatal Research Institute, about the prevention of premature births in the San Diego region.

We're sorry. This audio clip is no longer available. A transcript has been made available.

San Diego is among the top 10 cities when it comes to preventing premature births, but there's more to be done, according to a March of Dimes report released Thursday.

The 8th annual Birth Report Card assigned a "C" grade to the U.S., saying it has a long way to go in reducing preterm birth rates. In the U.S., one in 10 babies is born too soon (before the 37th week mark), and the preterm birth rate is higher than that of most high-income countries.

California earned a “B” grade. San Diego also received a "B" grade, with the number of preterm births down since last year.

"Premature births is the primary killer of babies in the first year of their life," said Victoria Lombardo, associate state director of program services for the March of Dimes. "It's devastating to families and a high burden of cost for the U.S."

Lombardo said the study found the preterm birth rates fluctuate when looking at race.

“The Asian moms have the lowest preterm birth rate,” Lombardo told KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday. “The biggest population where preterm birth happens consistently is in the African-American families. We don’t have those reasons (why).”

Lombardo said the cost of caring for premature babies in the U.S. is about $26 billion.

Anup Katheria, director of Sharp Mary Birch Neonatal Research Institute, and his colleagues are working to reduce the number of deaths among preterm babies.

Katheria said research at the hospital included examining how keeping the baby connected to the mom could help the baby.

“(The babies) leave about half of the blood behind if you cut the umbilical cord away,” Katheria said. “But, what if you could keep the baby with the mother but provide life-sustaining interventions?”

Katheria said the “bonding experience” between a mother and her baby is also lost when removing the baby from the mother right away.

The causes for preterm births include lack of prenatal care, infection or maternal reasons like obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, he said.

“There are a number of causes — some of which, we can control,” Katheria said.

Fighting premature births is one of the campaigns led by the March of Dimes in its mission to improve the health of babies. The March of Dimes helped support the research of scientist Jonas Salk who discovered the polio vaccine.


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