Transforming Health Care Through Evidence and Collaboration
Transforming Health Care Through Evidence and Collaboration

Giving More Babies a Healthy Start in Life: An Anthem Foundation & March of Dimes Collaboration to Reduce Preterm Birth

One in every 10 babies born in the United States is born prematurely,1 and prematurity is the leading cause of death for newborns.2  Babies born prematurely—before 37 weeks gestation—can face numerous short- and long-term health issues, including breathing problems, difficulty with feedings, cerebral palsy, developmental delays, and vision and hearing impairments.3 

Following eight years of steady decline,4 the U.S. preterm birth rate rose in 2015 to 9.6 percent.5 Racial and ethnic disparities and geographical variations in these preterm births are widespread.5 Black women experience higher rates of preterm births than the national average.5 The Pacific Northwest has the lowest preterm birth rate, while southern states have the highest rates. In addition to the unfair toll on babies and their families, premature birth accounts for more than $26 billion annually in avoidable medical and societal costs.6 

Investing in Healthy Maternal Practices

Anthem Foundation—the philanthropic arm of Anthem, Inc.—is an active partner in the fight to improve public health through its Healthy Generations program, a multigenerational initiative to provide charitable contributions to improve public health and produce measurable impact. The Foundation used their state-by-state compilation of public health measures to identify key focus areas that were in need of charitable giving and attention. After selecting maternal and newborn health as one of the key areas, Anthem Foundation began working to reduce low birth weight and preterm births across 15 of the markets where Anthem, Inc. does business.

Since 2010, the Anthem Foundation has provided more than $4.3 million in grant funding to the March of Dimes to scale up and implement several programs that encourage and facilitate first trimester prenatal care and help at-risk mothers commit to behaviors that reduce the numbers of low-birthweight babies. These programs include a group prenatal care model called CenteringPregnancy® (CP), smoking cessation programs, quality improvement initiatives related to the elimination of early elective deliveries, and Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait Community Programs®.

Prenatal Care with Peer Support

CenteringPregnancy® (CP) is a group prenatal care model that has demonstrated positive maternal and infant outcomes, including lower preterm birth rates, higher satisfaction with care and higher breastfeeding rates, compared to traditional prenatal care.7 The program brings together 8 to 10 women with similar due dates, and from all races, ages and socio-economic backgrounds.

Women receive the recommended 10 prenatal visits,8 however each visit can last between 90 minutes and 2 hours, allowing participants 10 times more face-time with their providers than traditional prenatal care.8 Women participate in their health assessments by taking their own blood pressure and weight. After individual health assessments and consultations are complete, the women “circle up” with providers and support staff to form an interactive and facilitated discussion group. Discussion topics and educational material can range from nutrition and common discomforts during pregnancy, to labor and delivery, to breastfeeding and infant care post-delivery.

Studies have demonstrated the program's benefits including a recent 5-year retrospective study from the University of South Carolina that found a CP pilot program in South Carolina reduced premature births by 36 percent and reduced NICU stays by 28 percent.9 The study also highlighted the potential cost-savings of the program: $22,667 for every premature birth prevented.

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