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The count: rate of premature births in Louisiana in 2016 

12.6 percent

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Louisiana received a grade of "F" last week on March of Dimes' annual Premature Birth Report Card for its high rate of premature births. According to the report, 12.6 percent of Louisiana babies were born prematurely in 2016. The national average for premature births in 2016 was 9.8 percent, a number which has risen since 2015.

  Louisiana joins Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia and Puerto Rico with the country's highest rates of premature deliveries.

  In the most recent local data offered in the report, preterm birth rates were highest in Caddo and East Baton Rouge parishes. In 2015 the preterm birth rate improved in Orleans Parish but worsened in Jefferson Parish, rising from 10.7 to 10.9 percent of deliveries in that parish.

  The organization said black women are 49 percent more likely and Native American women are 18 percent more likely to have premature deliveries, putting children of those backgrounds at risk.

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