The March of Dimes has released the 2019 edition of its annual Report Card tracking the health of babies and mothers. Nationwide, it finds the news is not good for preterm (often called premature) births or for the health of new and expectant mothers.

Ohio fared poorly and received only a barely passing grade from the nonprofit, founded in 1938 and dedicated to the idea that “every baby deserves the best possible start.”

Three-fifths of U.S. states headed in the wrong direction

Last year, four states received the grade of “F” for their rates of babies born too soon. This year, the March of Dimes failed the six states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and West Virginia.

Nationwide, the rate of preterm births rose for the fourth year in a row and now stands at just over one out of every ten babies.

Of course, early birth is not merely about bad timing. It is a symptom of many deeper problems.

As the President and CEO of March of Dimes said, “Every American should be alarmed about the state of maternal and infant health in this country … This is one crisis, not two. The health of moms and babies is powerfully linked, and we need to start treating it as such.”

Ohio scores poorly but has ways to improve

New features in this year’s Report Card allows closer views of individual states.

It gave Ohio a grade of “C–” and named Cleveland one of the 10 cities with the highest rate of preterm births. Along with other concerns, it notes the preterm birth rate among Ohio’s Black women is 49% higher than for other Ohio women.

In recommending key changes, the Report Card suggests Ohio should extend Medicare coverage for all women to at least a year after giving birth.

The state should also encourage providers to offer group prenatal care, a strategy with proven success elsewhere, the report says.

Finally, it urges Ohio to strongly support the CDC’s efforts to understand and deal with the reasons for the rates of death among new and expecting mothers.