Today we announced the results of an economic impact study on the local cost of preterm birth. With a total impact of over $400 million each year, costs include:

  • $93.6 million in initial hospital costs.
  • $13.1 million in additional K-12 educational costs.
  • $294.8 million in “lost” income for Hamilton County residents.

“We’ve long known that the medical costs of caring for a preterm infant are extremely high,” said City Councilmember and Cradle Cincinnati Co-chair Wendell Young. “But, this study reveals the true ongoing costs of the issue.  These babies grow up and often need additional services in school and are less likely to advance in their careers as adults. We always want to improve jobs and education; to do so, we must also focus on reducing preterm birth.”

Costs are elevated in our community because Hamilton County’s preterm birth rate is significantly higher than the national average (13.7% vs. 11.7%). Preterm birth is defined as a live birth at less than 37 weeks gestation, with the costliest impacts associated with the earliest births.

Additionally, the study reviewed the potential savings if our community can make progress on the issue.  For instance, with only a one week shift in early births, we would save more than $25 million in hospitalization costs alone.

Cradle Cincinnati has identified two priority areas that can impact our local preterm birth rate:

  • Up to $2.6 million per year could be saved by reducing maternal smoking.
  • Up to $7.5 million per year could be saved by reducing short pregnancy spacing (<12 months between pregnancies is highly associated with preterm birth).

“It is clear that an investment in reducing preterm birth is well worth it,” said County Commissioner Todd Portune, co-chair of Cradle Cincinnati. “While our hearts often draw us to the issue, this new analysis makes a compelling case that maternal and infant health should be real financial priorities for our region.”

The study was conducted in partnership with the UC Economics Center and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.  The full report is available at