Oklahoma City has one of the highest preterm birth rates in the country, what is being done to change it?

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – We’re getting a look at troubling new statistics concerning preterm births in Oklahoma.

It’s particularly a problem in Oklahoma City, which is one of ten cities with the highest preterm birth rates in the U.S.

“My son, Tyler Ott, was born a month premature and he was born in the NICU,” said Laurie Applekamp with the March of Dimes

Applekamp understands the struggle that countless families face every year.

“I didn’t realize until I started working for the March of Dimes that I was actually affected by what they do in the neonatal intensive care units,” she said.

Her little boy grew up, went to Harvard and achieved even more.

“Right now, Tyler plays for the Seattle Seahawks, he’s a long snapper so I am a proud mom but he’s also raising money for March of Dimes as well,” said Applekamp.

The March of Dimes just released its report on the preterm birth rate in Oklahoma in 2020, showing it was at 11.2% in the state – a slight drop from 11.5% in 2019.

“We’re going in the right direction but we have so much more work to do,” Applekamp said. 

Data from 2019 ranked Oklahoma City one of the ten cities with the highest preterm birthrates in the U.S. at 13.3%.

As for a cause, Applekamp says around 15% of Oklahoma moms aren’t getting the prenatal care they need – adding that distance from providers and financial struggles are the primary reasons.

However, she’s hopeful Medicaid expansion will help, along with the development of programs to help moms-to-be, as this is a dire situation for the tiniest Oklahomans.

“Loss of hearing, loss of sight, low birthweight, those things – can be a lifelong situation when they are born,” said Applekamp.

For those born at two pounds or less – their life is on the line. 

“A lot of times, a baby that’s born that small will not live past their first birthday,” Applekamp said. “It’s a really big fight for them.”

March of Dimes is working with a prenatal program called “Supportive Pregnancy Care.”

It’s a group prenatal program and the organization is working to find hospitals that will partner with them on it – to give more mothers the access they need.

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