March of Dimes, a non-profit organization that aims to improve the health of babies and mothers, reveals that preterm birth rate has been reduced for the seventh year in a row and is in line with the Healthy People 2020 Goal.

The group's annual report shows that the premature birth rate in the U.S. has dropped to 11.4 percent of all births in 2013. The goal for 2020 is to reduce the rate to 9.6 percent. In 2013, over 450,000 children were born premature compared to the 542,893 in 2006.

The data suggests that the preterm birth rate has been reduced due to increased efforts across all states. The decline has also saved about $11.9 billion in healthcare expenses as the average medical cost for a preterm baby is about $54,000 in comparison to about $4,000 in a healthy newborn child.

Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of March of Dimes, says that the latest statistics are a reason for celebration, but the numbers of premature births in the U.S. are still high and should be brought down.

"We are investing in a network of five prematurity research centers to find solutions to this still too-common, costly, and serious problem," says Dr. Howse.

Healthcare professionals suggest that the leading reason for newborn deaths is preterm birth. Infants who survive premature birth may face serious and lifelong medical conditions, such as development delays, cerebral palsy, vision loss and more. Doctors suggest that babies born even a few weeks before term face high mortality and disability risks compared to infants born at full term.

The group encourages healthcare providers and would-be mothers to avoid opting for early delivery before 39 weeks of pregnancy.

Since the start of the March of Dimes mission, healthcare centers have reported a significant reduction in early delivery option.

Despite the reduced preterm birth rate, the U.S. still has a "C" grade in the report card, which suggests that there is still a lot of work to be done to bring down the rate even further.

Check out the full details of the seventh March of Dimes 2014 Premature Birth Report Card.

ⓒ 2021 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.