Anthem Blue Cross Announces $225,000 Grant to Prevent Unnecessary Early Births in California

Part of $1 Million National Grant to March of Dimes® for Local Health Programs

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif., Nov. 18, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Some 57,000 of California's babies are born too soon each year. Now two organizations are working to give more babies a healthy start in life by working with California hospitals to help them change their policies to end unnecessary early elective deliveries so that more babies will get a healthy start in life.

Today, Anthem Blue Cross's corporate foundation announced a $225,000 grant for the March of Dimes's California affiliate to implement the organization's "Elimination of Non-medically Indicated (Elective) Deliveries Before 39 Weeks Gestational Age" toolkit (39 Weeks Toolkit).

The toolkit, which can be downloaded at, includes educational materials health care providers can give patients about the consequences of an early elective delivery for babies as well as tools they and other hospital staff can use to help them understand the consequences of an early elective delivery and the importance of the last weeks of pregnancy. The toolkit also offers case studies from leading health care institutions nationwide that implemented policies and practices successfully lowering elective deliveries and preterm births.

"Preterm births are tremendously costly, stressful, and – in many cases – preventable," said Pam Kehaly, president of Anthem Blue Cross. "By bringing the 39 Weeks Toolkit to additional hospitals in California, we are working to ensure moms-to-be have access to the care they need which in turn leads to better outcomes for mom and baby alike. We are proud to work with the March of Dimes because their programs have been shown to produce positive, measurable results and because they share our commitment to prenatal care and improving health throughout our community."

"While there are times when medical reasons require a baby to be delivered early, an early elective delivery is harmful to a baby and should never be scheduled," said James Byrne M.D., March of Dimes California Chapter program services committee chair spokesperson. "The last few weeks of pregnancy are critical to a baby's health because their brain and lungs are not completely developed until then."

Many California hospitals have made the necessary changes to ensure early elective deliveries are not taking place.  Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles and Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach are two standouts that have made comprehensive policy changes and enlisted the support of their physicians to improve the health of babies delivered in their institutions.  An important component of their programs is educating their patients using materials created by the March of Dimes about why it is best to deliver after 39 weeks.  

The grant to the March of Dimes is part of Anthem Blue Cross's corporate foundation's ongoing commitment to address health disparities and improving public health.  Through its State Health Index – a compilation of public health measures – and Healthy Generations program, the Anthem Blue Cross 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 birth weights and engaging mothers in prenatal care in their first trimester are major focus areas for the Anthem Blue Cross Foundation.

In the United States, more than half a million babies are born preterm each year. Preterm birth, birth before 37 weeks gestation, 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 who survive an early birth often face the risk of a lifetime of health challenges, including breathing problems, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities and others. Even infants born just a few weeks early have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than full-term infants. The last few weeks of pregnancy are critical to a baby because many important organs, including the brain, are not completely developed until then.

The California grant funds are part of a $1 million grant from Anthem Blue Cross' parent company's foundation to the March of Dimes to improve prenatal care and education and track the results of these efforts in California and 13 other states:  Connecticut, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.

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 or  Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

About the Anthem Blue Cross Foundation

Through charitable grant making, the Anthem Blue Cross Foundation LLC, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Association promotes Anthem Blue Cross's inherent commitment to enhance the health and well-being of individuals and families in communities that the company serves. 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 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 its parent foundation provides a 50 percent match of associates' campaign pledges. ® ANTHEM is a registered trademark of Anthem Insurance Companies, Inc. The Blue Cross names and symbol are registered marks of the Blue Cross Association.

About Anthem Blue Cross

Anthem Blue Cross is the trade name of Blue Cross of California.  Anthem Blue Cross and Anthem Blue Cross Life and Health Insurance Company are independent licensees of the Blue Cross Association. ® ANTHEM is a registered trademark of Anthem Insurance Companies, Inc. The Blue Cross name and symbol are registered marks of the Blue Cross Association. Additional information about Anthem Blue Cross and Anthem Blue Cross Life and Health Insurance Company is available at Also, follow us on Twitter at, on Facebook at, or visit our YouTube channel at

SOURCE Anthem Blue Cross