Katie Couric's Notebook: Premature Birth

It's a key factor used to determine the quality of health care in industrialized nations: the infant mortality rate. Sadly, the United States has not faired well in that category. In fact, it ranks 30th in the world - behind most of Europe, Japan and Israel.

Premature delivery is a leading cause of death for newborns and the rate of babies arriving too soon has climbed a staggering 36 percent since 1984. Technology and medicine have improved by leaps and bounds since then - so why is the preemie rate rising?

Dr. Alan Fleischman of the March of Dimes says factors like obesity and smoking can lead to early labor, but there's a bigger problem. Twenty percent of women in child bearing years have no health insurance - and there is no guaranteed access to prenatal care if they do get pregnant.

Education and access are the tools needed for the U.S. to strive for first place - and allow more of our tiniest citizens to enjoy a first birthday.

That's a page from my notebook.

I'm Katie Couric, CBS News.