In 2015, for the first time, complications to preterm birth became the number one global killer of young children under the age of 5. Here in Hamilton County, more than half of the babies who died in our community in the past year died because they were born before the end of their mother’s 2nd trimester. Building on recent success in reducing our local preterm birth rate belongs at the top of our community’s agenda.

This month, Cradle Cincinnati and the March of Dimes came together to jointly issue a report on extreme preterm birth in Cincinnati. Now today, on World Prematurity Day, we are calling on new partners to get involved in the fight for our babies.

If you care about equity, we want you to know that a baby born extremely preterm is nearly twice as likely to be African American and that, without an equal start to life, it can be hard to ever catch up. We need you in this fight.

If you care about education, we want you to know that these babies grow up to be more likely to need additional assistance in school and that our school systems have more than 18,000 kids who were born too soon in them. We need you in this fight.

If you care about the high cost of healthcare, we want you to know that this is one of our most expensive medical problems. In Hamilton County alone, we pay nearly $94 million annually for initial hospitalizations. These costs are shouldered by families, employers, and both private and public insurers. We need you in this fight.

Preterm birth is a complex issue with everything from stress to infection to mom’s zip code playing a role in her level of risk. Families can take steps to reduce their risk of preterm birth. Planning at least 12 months between pregnancies, from delivery of one child to conception of the next, gives mom’s body time to heal and prepare for a second healthy pregnancy. Quitting smoking as soon as you find out your pregnant also dramatically reduces your risk. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for help getting started.

But, importantly, families cannot do this alone. Complex problems require an entire community to rally support for solutions. Only collectively, can we help more moms deliver on time and set our babies up for bright futures.

For more information on preterm birth, including other ways to reduce risk and ways to get involved, visit www.cradlecincinnati.org or www.marchofdimes.org.