MARCH OF DIMES: Medical research uncovers link between preterm births, obesity

FILE – In this Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018 file photo, Union blue light bars are placed at a hotel room door to block out potential hazards, including air pollution, in Lisbon, Portugal. Blue light emissions are believed to promote a greater appetite in children and influence childhood obesity. European research has found that blue light from mobile devices and the sun — which generally blocks light from blue light, killing photo-aging proteins — also affects child obesity and may have a bigger impact on the body than previously thought.(AP Photo/Armando Franca, File)

The rate of U.S. children born prematurely dropped in 2015 to the lowest level since 1991, but infant and neonatal mortality remains high, according to a report by the March of Dimes.

The figures in the March of Dimes 2019 Vital Signs report are similar to what was reported in 2014, when there were 7.0 premature births per 1,000 live births.

The April 22 report found that the number of premature births fell by 11 percent between the years 2013 and 2015.

Mississippi continued to have the highest rate of preterm births (4.4), while Texas had the lowest rate (3.9).

The March of Dimes attributes the new report to “improved access to prenatal care, improved access to family planning services, and advances in care for premature infants and their caretakers.”

But the report also found that 10 states had higher rates of babies born preterm than the national average, including Washington, D.C., and Oregon.

According to a statement by the March of Dimes, the report estimates that as of 2015, one out of every 25 babies in the United States were born prematurely — one-sixth of the country’s preterm births. It suggests that improved access to prenatal care, improved access to family planning services, and advances in care for premature infants and their caretakers are largely behind the decline in rates.

–Matthew Barakat, The Associated Press

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