(HealthDay News) – The rate of premature births has declined to a 15-year low of 11.5%, according to the 2013 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card.

The March of Dimes Report Card examines progress in reducing the nation’s preterm birth rate and compares each state’s premature birth rate with the March of Dimes goal of 9.6%.

Overall, seven states received a better grade in their 2013 report card. Six states earned an “A,” as their preterm birth rates met the March of Dimes goal; 19 states earned a “B;” 17 states and the District of Columbia earned a “C;” five states earned a “D;” and only three states and Puerto Rico earned an “F.” Overall, the United States earned a “C” on the report card. The 2012 preterm birth rate among non-Hispanic blacks remained the highest of all racial groups at 16.5%, although it is at the lowest rate in 20 years; the preterm birth rate is still 1.5 times higher for non-Hispanic blacks than non-Hispanic whites.

“Although we have made great progress in reducing our nation’s preterm birth rate from historic highs, the United States still has the highest rate of preterm birth of any industrialized country,” Jennifer L. Howse, MD, president of the March of Dimes, said in a statement. “We must continue to invest in premature birth prevention because every baby deserves a healthy start in life.”

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