Every year the March of Dimes releases grades based on the National Center for Health Statistics data to calculate preterm birth rates. Arizona received a “C+” grade in the 2019 Premature Birth Report Card, an improvement from last year’s report when Arizona received a “C” grade. The report further highlights disparities across racial and ethnic groups and states that in Arizona, the preterm birth rate among black women is 40% higher than the rate among all other women. The report also grades a select number of Arizona counties and cities.

Overall, the preterm birth rate across the United States has increased for the fourth year in a row with Arizona’s current preterm birth rate of 9.5%. That means many states including Arizona should continue to invest in a variety of perinatal and maternal health initiatives to reduce the rate of preterm births such as maternal and neonatal transports to higher levels of care, home visitation in at-risk communities, and initiatives that promote health and wellness for women prior to pregnancy.

ADHS administers several prevention efforts to increase healthy pregnancies to improve birth outcomes. ADHS is strengthening work on reducing maternal mortality and morbidity.  In partnership with stakeholders, ADHS developed a Maternal Mortality Breakthrough Action Plan as part of Governor Ducey’s Health Goal Council. The Plan addresses goals of increasing awareness of warning signs during pregnancy and postpartum periods, improving access to care, supporting workforce and workforce capacity, improving data collection and surveillance, and supporting systems of care for pregnant and postpartum women in Arizona.  Recently ADHS was awarded a $10.5 million grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration to support implementation of the plan and enhance efforts to improve health outcomes for all women in Arizona.

Here are additional programs and resources set-up to support perinatal and maternal health in Arizona.

  • ASH Line 1-800-55-66-222 supports pregnant women and their family members in efforts to stop smoking

  • Health Start – increases access to prenatal care services to pregnant women by linking enrolled women to medical providers, providing inter-conception health education and providing preconception/inter-conception health education to women receiving pregnancy tests.

  • The High Risk Perinatal Program (HRPP) – is a comprehensive, statewide perinatal system of care dedicated to reducing infant and maternal morbidity and mortality. There are three components to HRPP: Maternal and Neonatal transports, Hospital and Inpatient Physician Services and Community Health Nursing.

  •  MIECHV (Maternal, Infant, Early Childhood Home Visiting Program) – delivers evidence based home visiting program services to pregnant women and their families.  Each home visiting programs aim to increase health pregnancies and improve birth outcomes. The home visiting programs provide resources/referrals to education opportunities through classes – childbirth education, breastfeeding, newborn care, car seat/home safety.

  • PRAMS (Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System) – analyzes the characteristics of women who experienced preterm delivery ranging from maternal demographics, health insurance coverage, prenatal care visits to the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.  These data will help Arizona identify specific risk factors and behaviors associated with preterm delivery and to tailor prevention efforts to specific populations.

  •  Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Helpline 1-800-833-4642 – offers information about pregnancy test sites, low-cost providers, breastfeeding support, vitamins with folic acid and TEXT4BABY resources.

  •  Strong Families AZ – a network of free home visiting programs that help families raise healthy children ready to succeed in school and in life.  Find out more at https://strongfamiliesaz.com  

  •  WIC (Women, Infants and Children) – provides nutrition education, breastfeeding support, healthy foods, and referrals to health and social services.  Find out if you are eligible by calling 1-800-252-5942

  • AZ Health Zone promotes healthy food choices and physically active lifestyles, and offers free healthy recipes.

  • PowerMeA2Z promotes healthy living among young women and provides free vitamins with folic acid.

The impact of these efforts to improve the health status of women before, during, and after pregnancy will translate to improved perinatal health for all of Arizona’s newborns.