California, for the second straight year, has received a "C" grade by the March of Dimes for its premature birthrate - but that's not as bad as it sounds.
No state received an "A" grade on programs to prevent premature births. Only one, Vermont, got a "B," while the nation as a whole earned only a "D" grade.
California's premature birthrate, 10.9 percent of live births, is up slightly from 10.7 in 2008, and is still markedly lower than the national rate of 12.7 percent. The March of Dimes goal is 7.6 percent.
"While we are working diligently to fight growing rates of premature birth, our state's grade indicates that more needs to be done to give these babies a chance at a healthy start in life," said Dani Montague, director of the March of Dimes California chapter. "Nearly 58,000 babies are born too soon in California every year, and many of these births result in ongoing health problems and months of hospitalization for these tiny newborns."
Seven states improved their scores by one letter grade and two states declined. The March of Dimes recommends that states attack premature births, the leading cause of infant deaths, through such programs as reducing smoking among women of childbearing age and improving access to prenatal medical care.