According to the Mississippi State Department of Health, Mississippi's average premature birth rate is more than 25% higher than the rest of the country - giving the state an "F" on the March of Dimes' national premature birth report card.
Dina Ray is with the Mississippi Chapter of the March of Dimes. She says African-Americans are at higher risk.
"We do have a large disparity in our African-American population. Obviously when you have disparities within a community and you have a larger percentage of pre-term birth in one group versus the other, it certainly contributes to the whole number being worse," says Ray.
African-American pre-term birth rates can be greater than other races by 20%.
However, Ray says African-Americans are not the only race with elevated risks of prematurity. She urges all mothers to take their pregnancy seriously
"Never drink or never have any kind of illicit drug use during pregnancy. We would also encourage moms not to smoke. Certainly the healthier you are when you get pregnant, more likely, the healthier you'll be in your pregnancy," Ray says.
According to the State Department of Health, pre-term birth rates in Mississippi declined by 11 percent in the last 5 years.
Maura Moed. MPB News.