The March of Dimes has downgraded Georgia from a C to a D grade when it comes to preventing premature births.
Georgia's premature birth rate is actually the same as last year, but the March of Dimes has changed its grading scale to call attention to the problem.
Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, a board member with the organization and dean of the Morehouse School of Medicine, said to reduce Georgia's premature birth rate, women need more and better access to health care.
“If you’re not as healthy as one can be when you become pregnant of course that may increase your chance of having challenges in your pregnancy,” she said.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, Georgia's premature birth rate improved by about 1 percentage point over the past five years, dropping from 12 percent of live births to 11 percent, 1 percentage point above the national average.
But, the March of Dimes, which has set a national goal of 8.1 percent, said the state hasn't kept up with its tougher standards, which account for new technology and health care techniques.
Seema Csukas, head of the Georgia Department of Health's Maternal and Child Programs, thinks women here need more access to health care before and during pregnancies.
“It goes back to let's talk about health care for women. Whether they decide to get pregnant or not, they need to make sure they're taking care of themselves first so that they can ensure the best possible outcomes when they become pregnant,” she said.