March of Dimes report card rates nation, state and counties on maternal, child health measures

Duval County received an “F” grade, while Florida and the United States maintained their “D+” and “C-” grades on the 2021 March of Dimes Report Card, released annually during Prematurity Awareness Month. The report Card showcases the overall state of maternal and infant health in the United States, expanding from just premature birth to include measures for both mom and baby and policy solutions that can improve their health.

While the overall pre-term birth rate in the United States declined slightly, Florida’s rate of 10.5 percent resulted in a D+. Duval County received an F for its rate of 11.5 percent, the highest among the state’s largest counties and a worse rate than the previous year. Premature birth is a leading cause of infant death in Northeast Florida and across the country, and can lead to life-long health issues for infants that survive.

The report also notes that with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, pre-existing health disparities have been magnified. In Florida, the preterm birth rate among Black women is 53% higher than the rate among all other women, with similar disparities in Northeast Florida.

The March of Dimes included a social vulnerability index for each county in the state to show how the social determinants of health impact populations. The overall SVI for each county represents the amount of vulnerability relative to other counties in the state. Duval and Baker counties fared the worst based on the index.

On a policy level, Florida was noted for failing to expand Medicaid and not having legislation to increase access to doulas for Medicaid clients. The state does have a pending waiver to extend postpartum Medicaid and utilizes a Maternal Mortality Review Committee, although it does not review deaths up to a year after pregnancy ends. Florida does have several beneficial policies: a perinatal quality collaborative and a midwifery policy that allows the practice of direct entry midwives and certified nurse midwives.