Health Disparities are “differences in health outcomes between groups that reflect social inequalities.”1
Given the current perinatal landscape (find a detailed overview here), it is evident that there are significant health disparities in birth outcomes in Connecticut. Only by acting on reducing and ultimately eliminating health disparities, will we be able to significantly improve birth outcomes in our state.
In 2012, Commissioner Jewel Mullen, on behalf of the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH)
accepted the Association for State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) President’s challenge to improve birth outcomes by reducing preterm birth (PTB) in Connecticut by 8% by 2014 (from 10.2% to 9.3%). The Commissioner also included a second challenge to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in early PTB. Two goals were identified to accomplish this:
Goal 1: By June 30, 2014, reduce singleton PTB statewide in Connecticut from 8.1 per 100 to 7.7 per 100, a decrease of 5%.
Goal 2: By June 30, 2014, reduce the percent of very low birth weight (VLBW) among singleton and low
birth weight (LBW) deliveries statewide in Connecticut within the Black/African American community from 28% to 23%, and reduce the percent within the Hispanic/Latino community from 20% to 18% respectively.
In the same year, Connecticut was one of four states selected to participate in the National Governor’s
Association (NGA) Learning Network on Improving Birth Outcomes. The Learning Network is an initiative by the NGA to assist states with developing initiatives and policies to improve birth outcomes, particularly concerning PTB and infant mortality. To facilitate this, the NGA convened in‐state sessions with selected states to encourage interagency collaboration, share lessons learned, further the state’s planning processes, and identify and share best practices.
Following this learning network, in March 2013, DPH invited state and local organizations serving women of reproductive age to participate in the Connecticut Coalition to Improve Birth Outcomes. The purpose of the Coalition was to develop the state’s Plan to Improve Birth Outcomes to promote an integrated approach to reducing perinatal health disparities, while sustaining the momentum and political will to meet and exceed the goals set forth with the ASTHO Challenge.
Progress towards the ASTHO Challenge goal is measured from the 2009 baseline preterm birth rate
according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and calculated by the March of
Dimes Perinatal Data Center. At the time of this writing, final birth data for 2013 showed Connecticut to be on its way to reducing the overall preterm birth rate from 10.2% in 2009 to 9.8% in 2013. Data for the 2014 year will be forthcoming.
The Plan to Improve Birth Outcomes (PIBO): Purpose and Goals