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Prenatal care is important

News from the March of Dimes of Alabama’s failing grade for prenatal care comes as no surprise considering the state’s poverty level.

The March of Dimes said Alabama had a preterm-birth rate of 16.7 percent in 2005, the latest year for such figures. The nation earned a D with a preterm-birth rate of 12.7 percent.

Maternal smoking and lack of health insurance were cited as the two largest contributors to preterm births.

In Dallas County, 663 babies were born in 2006, the most recent data available from the Alabama Center for Health Statistics. Of those babies born, 236 or 35.8 percent of them received less than adequate prenatal care, which is essential for healthy babies.

Here are some other statistics to think about: 79 or 11.9 percent of those births were babies with low weight and 480 or 72.6 percent were to mothers with Medicaid insurance.

In areas, such as ours, we also find a higher rate of uninsured and underinsured, lack of public transit or money for women, especially those on some kind of government assistance, to pay for their own mode of transportation. Maternal smoking during pregnancy also is generally higher in areas, such as ours.

There are some programs, such as the newly organized Doc in the Bus that provide care for individuals. But there are opportunities for more.

Service organizations have joined with health providers to go into communities to teach basic prenatal care — proper diet, not smoking. And, other communities have established satellite clinics with nurse midwives available on different days in a circuit around a region.

This is 21st century and the United States. No state should receive a failing grade for lack of care for its pregnant women. There are just too many possibilities.