In its latest report released this week, the March of Dimes organization gave Oklahoma as close to a failing grade as a state can get when evaluating preterm births.
The report card and grade, from one of the oldest children health groups in the county, gave Oklahoma a D-minus grading on factors like the rate of preterm births, the cost of preterm births and access to care for mothers.
Oklahoma's preterm birth rate rose in 2018 to 11 percent of all babies born in Oklahoma.
Things mostly get worse when you look at the state's largest cities and counties. Canadian, Tulsa, Rogers and Oklahoma County, along with Oklahoma City all saw increases in preterm births last year.
Oklahoma City was given an F grade its rate is so bad.
Things also got worse along racial lines. Up to 1 in 15 mothers of color, particularly black mothers are at risk of a preterm birth.
The March of Dimes recommends Oklahoma expand Medicaid for mothers and create prenatal care group programs to help reach at risk mothers. Health experts said any increase in access to care is crucial to turning things around.
“It also makes sure that maybe moms get in to access to care maybe a little earlier than they would, which can alleviate those early problems,” Kelly McNeal with the Oklahoma City-County Health Dept. said. “The more access that she has through her pregnancy, the more likely that she’ll have a better outcome.”
Medicaid expansion advocates also weighed in on the report card.
"Medicaid expansion provides a lifeline for Oklahoma families who are slipping through the cracks in our healthcare system,” said Tatianna Cannon with the group Yes on 802.
Oklahomans could vote on whether to expand Medicaid next November. The secretary of state is currently tallying and verifying signatures
Premature birth rates and infant death rates often go hand in hand, according to McNeal. Oklahoma's infant mortality rate is unfortunately well above the national average. There are a lot of ways to help expecting mothers or mothers of premature babies. A list of resources is below.