In anticipation of World Prematurity Day on Nov. 17, the Fresno County Preterm Birth Collective Impact Initiative announced its goal to reduce preterm births in Fresno County to 7 percent by 2025. This number represents a 37 percent reduction of all babies born prematurely in Fresno County, which currently has one of the highest rates of preterm birth in California and the nation.

While California’s preterm birth rate is 8.3 percent statewide, Fresno County has a significantly higher rate of 11.1 percent. Approximately one out of every nine babies in Fresno County is born at 37 weeks or sooner.

In 2015, about 1,500 babies were born premature. With the new goal in place, the hope is to reduce that number to 37 percent by the end of the 10-year initiative, which is part of the larger UC San Francisco Preterm Birth Initiative.

“The preterm birth rates in Fresno County are among the worst in the nation,” said Sandra Flores, program director of the Fresno County initiative. “What we’re learning is that populations who are most impacted are communities of color, those who live in poverty, have experienced high trauma, and those who lack of access to opportunities. We’ve also learned that a woman’s health pre-pregnancy is a significant factor in reducing preterm birth rates.”

The initiative’s steering committee, a diverse group of community leaders, are addressing evidence-based interventions in Fresno County with working groups to address the social and environmental factors that lead to preterm birth.


The first working group to launch will be Care and Support for Pregnant Women, an intervention-based model implemented in conjunction with First 5 Fresno County. Studies have shown a reduction in premature birth up to 40 percent for those who have participated in group care.

“We are working with doctors who would be willing to refer their patients to be a part of this model,” said Flores. “We need to see women that may be at a risk for preterm birth in order to mitigate it.”

Other interventions in place include Reproductive Health and Education Before Pregnancy, offering support and guidance to Fresno County school districts in their implementation of the California Healthy Youth Act requirements, with the Fresno County Office of Education.

The final group, Coordination of Care for Women, is meant to provide coordinated care for women before, during, and after pregnancy. It will launch in the coming months. Mothers and families with lived experience will lead this effort, which will consist of a Moms’ Council and Parents’ Council.

Flores said utilizing existing programs and resources in communities led by organizations will be the key to moving the groups forward.

“We want to leverage existing resources in the community in order to inform, educate and propel our groups into the next steps of advocacy,” said Flores. “Existing programs, that have been shown to be successful with high completion rates, are the kinds of programs we want to offer our families.”

ptb3aOn Thursday, Nov. 17 from 5:30 – 7 p.m. the Fresno County initiative and First 5 Fresno County will commemorate World Prematurity Day with the 2nd annual World Prematurity Day Walk. The walk will start at the Lighthouse for Children (2405 Tulare St. Suite 200) and conclude at Fresno City Hall. Each participant will receive a purple lamp, which is the color used to raise awareness about the preterm birth epidemic.

Fresno City Councilmember Esmeralda Soria will present the proclamation of November 17 as World Prematurity Day.

Several iconic landmarks in Fresno will be lit purple to commemorate World Prematurity Day, including the Shehadey Tower at the Save Mart Center at Fresno State, The Lighthouse for Children and Fresno City Hall.

The Fresno County Preterm Birth Collective Impact Initiative is part of a 10-year Preterm Birth Initiative, led by UC San Francisco. Fresno State serves as the backbone organization for the Fresno initiative. The comprehensive effort is funded by philanthropists Lynne and Marc Benioff and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

For more information, contact Sandra Flores at 559.278.2126 or

View original press release.

View segment on Central Valley Today. Nov. 14, 2016.