Grant Builds on Longstanding Relationship and Proven Results
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., April 15, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- One in nine American babies is born prematurely, placing the newborn at increased risk of medical complications and lifelong health challenges. To improve birth outcomes and reduce unnecessary health care costs, the WellPoint Foundation today announced a two-year, $2 million grant to the March of Dimes to support prenatal care and quality improvement programs.
Preterm birth is a serious health problem that costs the United States more than $26 billion annually, according to the Institute of Medicine. It is the leading cause of newborn death. Babies born just a few weeks early have higher rates of illness and hospitalization compared to full-term newborns.
The WellPoint Foundation grant will support March of Dimes community grants to expand CenteringPregnancy®, a group prenatal care model, in 13 states, and quality improvement programs in California to help health care providers increase the number of full-term deliveries.
"This grant will allow the March of Dimes to help more women have healthy pregnancies and full-term deliveries," said Scott D. Berns, MD, MPH, senior vice president and deputy medical director of the March of Dimes. "We thank the WellPoint Foundation for its continued support of the March of Dimes' mission and the good health of moms-to-be and their babies."
The $2 million grant to the March of Dimes is part of the WellPoint Foundation's ongoing commitment to addressing health disparities and improving public health across the country. Through its State Health Index -- a state-by-state compilation of public health measures -- and Healthy Generations program, the WellPoint Foundation works to identify the issues most in need of attention and directs its charitable support and volunteer efforts toward improving health in those areas. Reducing low birthweight and engaging mothers in prenatal care are major focus areas for the WellPoint Foundation.
"Nearly half a million babies are born too soon in this country each year. In some cases, these preterm births can be avoided through effective prenatal care, education and outreach that together produce better outcomes for mom and baby, as well as our health care system," said Lance Chrisman, executive director of the WellPoint Foundation. "We're proud to support the March of Dimes with this grant because they are at the forefront of making sure moms-to-be and families have access to the care and information they need to have full-term, healthy babies."
The WellPoint Foundation grant will enable the March of Dimes to make the CenteringPregnancy® model of care available to thousands of women by supporting programs in 13 states: Connecticut, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.
CenteringPregnancy®, developed by Centering Healthcare Institute, has been demonstrated to reduce the incidence of preterm birth and low birthweight. This prenatal care model integrates the three major components of care: health assessment, education, and support, into a unified program within a group setting. Eight to 12 women with similar gestation ages meet together, learning care skills and participating in facilitated discussion, and developing a support network with other group members. Each CenteringPregnancy® group meets for a total of 10 sessions throughout pregnancy and early postpartum. The practitioner, within the group space, completes standard physical assessments at each session.
In California, the grant funds will be used over two years to implement quality improvement initiatives at 12 hospitals focused on eliminating medically unnecessary, elective deliveries before 39 weeks. The quality improvement program provides information and education to help hospitals, clinicians and patients better understand the consequences of early elective delivery and the importance of the last weeks of pregnancy in the full-term, 39 week developmental process.
The new grant continues a longstanding relationship between WellPoint Foundation and March of Dimes. Most recently, in 2011 a $1 million WellPoint Foundation grant helped the March of Dimes provide prenatal care to more than 3,400 women via CenteringPregnancy® and to roll out a quality improvement toolkit to 12 hospitals in California that together deliver more than 43,000 babies annually. The aggregate preterm birth rate at the WellPoint Foundation-funded CenteringPregnancy® sites was 35.4 percent lower than the aggregate preterm birth rate for the 13 states supported by the grant (8.2 percent versus 12.7 percent).*
About the March of Dimes The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide and its premier event, March for Babies®, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
In 2013, the March of Dimes celebrates its 75th Anniversary and its ongoing work to help babies get a healthy start in life. Early research led to the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines that all babies still receive. Other breakthroughs include new treatments for premature infants and children with birth defects. About 4 million babies are born each year in the United States, and all have benefitted from the March of Dimes life saving research and education.
About The WellPoint Foundation The WellPoint Foundation is the philanthropic arm of WellPoint, Inc. and through charitable contributions and programs, the Foundation promotes the inherent commitment of WellPoint, Inc. to enhance the health and well-being of individuals and families in communities that WellPoint, Inc. and its affiliated health plans serve. The Foundation focuses its funding on strategic initiatives that address and provide innovative solutions to health care challenges, as well as promoting the Healthy Generations Program, a multi-generational initiative that targets specific disease states and medical conditions. These disease states and medical conditions include: prenatal care in the first trimester, low birth weight babies, cardiac morbidity rates, long term activities that decrease obesity and increase physical activity, diabetes prevalence in adult populations, adult pneumococcal and influenza vaccinations and smoking cessation. The Foundation also coordinates the company's annual associate giving campaign and provides a 50 percent match of associates' campaign pledges. To learn more about the WellPoint Foundation, please visit www.wellpointfoundation.org.
*Compared to the latest national data available at the time of the report (2007).