Louisiana has some of the nation's highest percentages of premature babies and underweight newborns. Now it's begun adding information about why babies are born early to its birth statistics.
Dr. Rebekah Gee directs the health department's Birth Outcomes Initiative to reduce premature birth and infant mortality. She says the vital records change will help doctors understand why Louisiana ranks 48th nationally in infant mortality and preterm birth, and 49th in the percentage of underweight newborns.
Louisiana has a web-based vital records system to collect data about birth, death, fetal death, marriage and divorce. Now, if a baby is born before the 39th week, the system will ask why.
As part of Gee's program, all 58 Louisiana hospitals where babies are born have promised to end elective births before 39 weeks.