More Resources to Protect Mothers and Babies

By Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services
Posted February 08, 2012

Each year, more than half a million infants are born prematurely in America – a trend that has grown by 36 percent over the last twenty years.  This can be life threatening for the mother and the infant.

Many children born preterm require additional medical attention and early intervention services, special education and may have conditions that affect their productivity as adults.

To help reduce the rising number of premature births and ensure more babies are born healthy, HHS announced the Strong Start initiative, designed to reduce preterm births and improve outcomes for newborns and pregnant women.

To tackle this problem, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation will award grants to healthcare organizations and coalitions to improve prenatal care to women covered by Medicaid. The grants will support enhanced prenatal care through group visits with other pregnant women, at birth centers providing case management and psychosocial support, and at maternity medical homes where pregnant women can consistently go to the same provider throughout the course of their pregnancy.

In addition to preventable premature births, the Strong Start initiative will also focus on reducing elective preterm deliveries, another growing trend. Any early delivery, planned or otherwise, can carry medical risks for mother and infant. 

The Strong Start initiative cuts across many agencies within HHS and will involve efforts by the CMS Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the Administration on Children and Families.

HHS will also work with the March of Dimes, ACOG and the National Partnership for Women and Families, the Society for Maternal and Fetal Medicine, and Childbirth Connections.

This work builds on the Administration’s commitment to improving the health of children and their mothers.  From reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program to efforts to fight obesity, more children have health coverage and healthier lifestyles as a result of these initiatives.