According to data from 2016, 8,000 more babies were born premature nationwide than in 2015. The preterm birth rate among black women is 46 percent higher than the rate among all other women.
Babies born preterm face a greater likelihood of death before their first birth, the March of Dimes says, or lifelong disabilities or chronic health conditions.
Fresno County's preterm birth rate is the highest in California, according to a new study.
For the second year in a row, it's also up nationwide after almost a decade of decline. A cluster of a dozen counties in the northeastern part of the state had premature birth rates of more than 10.8 percent. "We must turn our focus to the disparities between ethnicities and race in our community before we can give every mom and baby a fair chance to be born healthy and thrive".
Although North Carolina received a "D", the grade for individual counties for which numbers were available varied. "This is an unacceptable trend that requires immediate attention".
Nationwide, the rate of premature births increased to 9.8 percent past year, from 9.6 percent in 2015.
Infant mortality for whites declined 12.3 percent from 2015 to 2016, while infant deaths increased 7.2 percent for African-Americans.
Information provided by the March of Dimes.
Among African-Americans, 16 percent of MS children are born early, compared to 11 percent among whites. Hispanic women accounted for 9.1 percent of preterm births and Asian/Pacific Islander women accounted for 10.3 percent of preterm births in Louisiana.
"Although this is disappointing news, we are working collectively with our partners to mobilize resources and drive best practices and policies to ensure that no mother or baby falls through the cracks." said Dr. Mary Anne McCaffree, Professor of Pediatrics, Neonatal Perinatal Medicine University of Oklahoma, College of Medicine and Chair of the March of Dimes Maternal Child Health Committee and Co-Chair Oklahoma Health Improvement Plan Child Health Group.