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SUNY Upstate President Dr. David R. Smith addresses preterm birth report card

In a series of interviews with major market radio stations, SUNY Upstate Medical University President David R. Smith, M.D., noted that the March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card issued Nov. 12 shows plenty of room for improvement.

The United States received a "D" in its overall ability to prevent premature births.

"We need to do more to help moms have healthy babies," Smith said. "We must bring focus, resources and support to the growing crisis of premature birth."

The March of Dimes compared actual preterm birth rates to the national Healthy People 2010 objective. The National Healthy People 2010 preterm birth objective is to lower the rate to 7.6 percent of all live births. Latest available data (2005) show that the national preterm birth rate is 12.7 percent.

Babies who survive a premature birth face the risk of serious life-long health problems including learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, blindness, hearing loss, and other chronic conditions including asthma. Even infants born just a few weeks too soon have a greater risk of breathing problems, feeding difficulties, hypothermia (temperature instability), jaundice and delayed brain development.

Smith, a pediatrician, is a member of the Executive Committee of the National Board of Trustees for the March of Dimes.