Erie Vital Signs

Health Behaviors and Disease Prevention: Preterm Births

Recent Performance

This trend is better or improving.

Preterm birth is an important infant health indicator. The earlier a child is born, the greater the risk of serious disability or death. A preterm birth is defined as the birth of an infant prior to 37 weeks of pregnancy. In 2012, preterm birth affected nearly 1 out of every 9 infants born in the United States.

The percentage of Erie County preterm live births has dropped by over one-third in just the last three years, from 12.0% in 2010 to 7.9% in 2012. Substantial declines from 2010 to 2012 occurred across the board in Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics. The 7.9% in 2012 was the lowest recorded value since 7.1% in 2000, and was lower than Pennsylvania’s value of 9.4%.

Note: Much of the data for the Health Indicators come from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Survey. Each metro area decides whether or not to participate each year, so these indicators often do not have data for every year for every metro area. As a result, the graphs show markers (dots, diamonds, etc.) for the individual years rather than lines. If there are data for consecutive years, the markers will be joined with a line on the graphs.

The Basics

This indicator reports the percentage of live births that were born before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

Why is this important?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, preterm-related causes of death together accounted for 35% of all infant deaths in 2010, more than any other single cause. Preterm birth is also a leading cause of long-term neurological disabilities in children. Preterm birth cost the U.S. health care system more than $26 billion in 2005.

A developing baby goes through important growth during the final weeks and months of pregnancy. Many organ systems, including the brain, lungs, and liver need the final weeks of pregnancy to develop fully. There is a higher risk of serious disability or death the earlier the baby is born. Some problems that a baby born too
early may face include:

  • Breathing problems.
  • Feeding difficulties.
  • Cerebral palsy.
  • Developmental delay.
  • Vision problems.
  • Hearing impairment.

Preterm births also may cause emotional and economic burdens for families.

The Details

“The Basics” tells the story.

The Nitty-Gritty Details

-Pennsylvania Department of Health, Family Health Statistics for Pennsylvania and Counties - March 2014.pdf


This EVS indicator reports subcategories based on race/ethnicity with the following breakdowns: All races, White, Black, and Hispanic (of any race).

Peer Areas

The data are available for Erie County and the state of Pennsylvania.


There are annual updates of this EVS indicator.


-Pennsylvania Department of Health, Health Statistics

Other Related Data

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