March of Dimes report card better in Kansas, but still more to do

March of Dimes released its annual March of Dimes Report Card on premature birth Monday.

“We’re seeing the fourth year in a row of an increase in premature birth around the country,” said Stacey D. Stewart, President and CEO of March of Dimes. “In Kansas, there has been just a very slight improvement and slightly better than the national average, with the premature birth rate declining very slightly from 9.6% to 9.5%.”

Stewart believes there are still areas where Kansas can improve.

“At a very basic level, lack of access to affordable health insurance, to affordable health care are huge barriers,” said Stewart. “In fact, Kansas is one of the states that has not adopted Medicaid expansion. In those states that have adopted Medicaid expansion, we’ve seen a significant improvement in infant mortality and either kinds of health outcomes for moms and babies.”

Distance to proper care can be a problem in some of Kansas’ rural areas, as well.

“We know that there are many counties in this country that don’t have access to hospitals that offer obstetric services and other kinds of prenatal care services,” said Stewart. “We do need to address the gaps in the healthcare system as it relates to maternal care and infant care. We think if we can do that more systemically in Kansas and around the country, we can start to see some improvement in some of the outcomes.”

Part of that systemic improvement is a willingness to look at other types of caregivers for women, like doulas and midwives where they may be the best providers.