Fighting premature birth: The Prematurity Campaign

Premature birth (birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and its complications are the #1 cause of death of babies in the United States. Babies who survive premature birth often have long-term health problems, including cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities, chronic lung disease, blindness and hearing loss. In the United States, about 380,000 babies are born prematurely each year. The preterm birth rate (the percent of babies born before 37 weeks each year) is 9.8 percent in the United States. This means 1 in 10 babies is born too soon. The U.S. preterm birth rate is among the worst of high-resource nations.

The March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign aims to reduce premature birth in the United States and to give every baby a fair chance for a healthy full-term birth. Yet this fair chance is not reality for all babies. The preterm birth rate rose to 9.8 percent in 2016, up 2 percent from 9.6 in 2015, marking the second consecutive increase after steady declines over the previous 7 years. The March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card reveals racial/ethnic and geographic disparities signifying that babies have a higher chance of a premature birth based simply on race/ethnicity and zip code.  

In 2017, the March of Dimes convened the Prematurity Campaign Collaborative to address the persistent health inequities and rising rate of preterm birth in the United States. Through the Collaborative, hundreds of organizations and experts work together on the shared challenge to “Achieve Equity and Demonstrated Improvements in Preterm Birth.” If you’d like to join the Collaborative or receive its newsletter, send an email to 

Prematurity Campaign activities fall in five main areas:
1.    Research and discovery
2.    Care innovation and community engagement
3.    Advocacy
4.    Education
5.    Family-centered newborn intensive care units (NICUs)

Prematurity Campaign activities are based on the latest data and scientific evidence. State prematurity profiles and other prematurity data are available on Peristats. March of Dimes annual Premature Birth Report Cards, issued every November since 2008, assign letter grades to the nation, 50 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico based on the latest available data on preterm birth rates. Report Cards highlight priority areas for action with county and racial/ethnic disparities data and a disparity ratio. Report Cards have elevated the issue of prematurity among thought leaders, policy-makers and the public.