One of the year's brightest spots in children's healthcare was the recent news that the national preterm birth rate fell to 11.4% in 2013, hitting the federal Healthy People 2020 target a full 7 years early. While the lower rate was a milestone, overall, the country's improvement still only earns it a midpack ranking with most developed countries with a grade of "C" as graded by the 7th annual March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card.
According to the organization, preterm birth, affecting nearly half a million babies each year, is the leading cause of newborn death in the United States. It notes that even babies who survive an early birth often confront complications for life, from breathing problems to developmental delays, vision loss, and cerebral palsy. Even babies born just a few weeks too soon have higher rates of death and disability than full-term babies.