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March of Dimes Report: Valley's Premature Birth Rate Still High

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Rebecca Plevin
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Valley Public Radio
Sarah Hinman Yenser's daughter was born almost four months early.

California has reduced its premature birth rate. The rate has dropped to 9.6 percent, earning the state an A on the March of Dimes annual report card for the first time.

"But unfortunately in the Central Valley, we’re still at a grade of C, although we’re trending downward on pre-term birth rates, as the state is," Gail Newel, director of the Fresno County Department of Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health, said at a press conference this morning.

Newel said the reasons for the disparity between the Valley and the rest of the state are complex. She says the county is taking steps to reduce the preterm birth rate here.

“One is through direct patient care, caring for the moms while they’re pregnant and after they deliver," Newel said. "Another is policy and system change, working with the hospital and the community at large to develop policies and practices that improve health care rates.”

Preterm births are considered the biggest threat to newborn health.

Rebecca Plevin was a reporter for Valley Public Radio from 2013-2014. Before joining the station, she was the community health reporter for Vida en el Valle, the McClatchy Company's bilingual newspaper in California's San Joaquin Valley. She earned the George F. Gruner Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism and the McClatchy President's Award for her work at Vida, as well as honors from the National Association of Hispanic Publications and the California Newspaper Publishers Association. Plevin grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is also a fluent Spanish speaker, a certified yoga teacher, and an avid rock-climber.
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