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Premature Births Decline In Kansas City

Kansas City, Mo. – More babies are making it to the full nine-month term in Kansas City. But experts aren't sure why.

Between 1990 and 2006, the rate of pre-term births escalated in Kansas City and around the country. A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that rates are now starting to finally go down.

The pre-term birth rate in Kansas City, Missouri dropped by almost two percentage points between 2005 and 2008.

Gerald Hoff is an epidemiologist with the city's health department. He says that decrease is significant. He notes being born too soon can lead to long-term health problems, and it's the leading cause of infant mortality. But Hoff also says researchers don't know what exactly has caused the recent decline.

"If I knew that, you and I could go out and get a Nobel Prize somewhere," says Hoff.

Diane Daldrup is with the Kansas City chapter of March of Dimes, an organization which focuses on birth issues. She too says it's hard to pin down one or two reasons for the decrease.

"There are so many different factors that feed into premature births," says Daldrup. "Over half of premature births are unknown in terms of why they happened or occurred."

Daldrup says despite these unknowns, there are a lot of known steps women can take to reduce their risks of a pre-mature birth. That includes things like quitting smoking, avoiding elective c-sections and inductions, and eating a healthy diet.

Funding for health care coverage on KCUR has been provided by the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City.

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