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ST. LOUIS - This week NewsChannel 5 took you inside the world of the dedicated doctors, nurses and specialists who bring premature babies into this world. The good news is the number of premature births in Missouri and Illinois are getting smaller, but there's still more work to do.

Just like in school, a c average gives you a passing grade, but it also shows there is room for improvement.

The March of Dimes' Prematurity Report Card released late last year gives both the Show Me State and Illinois a C on their report card.

Since 2006, Missouri's pre-term birth rate has dropped from 12.8 percent to 11.6 percent. In Illinois it's dropped from 13.3 percent to 12 percent in the same amount of time. Factors that contributed to improved infant health were: reducing the percent of uninsured women of child-bearing age.

Lowering the late preterm birth rate, and reducing the percentage of women childbearing age who smoke.

Despite these strides, tens of thousands of babies born each year in the bi-state, are born prematurely, and it hits us all right in the wallet. The average medical cost for a healthy baby is just over $4,000. Medical costs for a premature baby are just over $54,000.

The good news: the march of dimes offers programs that help moms-to-be have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies.

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