Arizona Department of Health Services

Healthy Babies

Reducing Prematurity

In 2011, the ADHS formally became a part of a national movement to reduce prematurity and infant mortality. That year 504 Arizona babies died before their first birthday. Sometimes we do everything right and things still go wrong. But there are really important prevention measures to consider that can help reduce the chances of an infant death or life-long health problems.

The problem of infant mortality and prematurity has long been of utmost concern in public health. In 2011, the President of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials selected the Healthy Babies Project for his national initiative - challenging each state to implement strategies to reduce prematurity and infant mortality based on successful national, regional, and state efforts to improve the health status of babies. We joined a national pledge to set a goal of reducing premature births by 8% by 2014.

ADHS is excited to report that thanks to the efforts of our partners throughout the state and especially the Arizona Perinatal Trust and the Arizona Chapter of the March of Dimes we met our goal! In November 2013, ADHS was awarded the March of Dimes Virginia Apgar Prematurity Campaign Leadership Award for successfully meeting the goal. ADHS reduced the rate of preterm birth from a rate of 12.7% in 2009 to 11.6% in 2012 - an 8.7% reduction.

Healthy Babies Initiative on My Turn
Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait - 60-second PSA

Why the focus on prematurity? Many babies die because they're born too soon. In 2012, 192 Arizona babies died due to prematurity, the leading cause of death for newborns. Even babies born a few weeks early have high odds of learning disabilities, vision & hearing loss and cerebral palsy.

ADHS will continue to work with the Arizona Perinatal Trust and our local AZ March of Dimes to implement evidence-based strategies to reduce prematurity like:

  1. Expanding home visiting programs to families and pregnant women in high-risk communities;
  2. Developing standards for home visiting programs throughout Arizona and professional development of home visitors so that home visits maximize opportunities to reduce risks for premature birth;
  3. Expanding awareness of importance of preconception health and implementation of the Arizona Preconception Health Strategic Plan;
  4. Continuing to support the March of Dimes "Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait" 39 Week Toolkit;
  5. Renew focus on infant safe sleeping practices to reduce post-neonatal infant mortality; and
  6. Use social media and public relations events to promote the overall campaign.

Note: Information provided in PDF files, unless otherwise indicated.