Empire BlueCross BlueShield Foundation Announces $150,000 Grant Expanding Group Prenatal Care Program in New York

Part of $1 Million Grant to March of Dimes® for Local Health Programs in 14 States

NEW YORK, Nov. 16, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Some 30,000 of New York's babies are born too soon each year. Now, two organizations are working to give more babies a healthy start in life by supporting a group prenatal care program that has successfully reduced c-sections, preterm births and low-birthweight babies.

Today, Empire BlueCross BlueShield announced a $150,000 grant from its corporate foundation to the March of Dimes to expand the non-profit's group prenatal care program, CenteringPregnancy®.

CenteringPregnancy is a model of group prenatal care delivery that has successfully reduced c-sections, preterm births and low-birthweight babies. Instead of individual appointments, women who are at similar points of their pregnancies are brought together in small groups of eight to 12.  During the approximately 10 appointments, each woman receives a private, standard health assessment from a medical practitioner. What is unique about the program is that the women also learn health skills, participate in a group discussion, and develop a support network with other group members.

"By bringing the CenteringPregnancy program to New York 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, and lowers overall health care costs for all," said Mark Wagar, president and CEO, Empire BlueCross BlueShield. "Preterm births are tremendously costly, stressful, and – in many cases – preventable."

"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," said Wagar.

CenteringPregnancy will be implemented this year at the following locations:  

  • NuHealth System;
  • Suffolk County Department of Health; and
  • Glens Falls Obstetrics and Gynecology Center PC.

"This grant will help more women have healthy pregnancies and full-term babies, and support the March of Dimes quality improvement initiatives to improve the health of babies by preventing preterm births," said Kerry Terminello, RN, and current Chair of the New York Chapter State Program Services Committee. "By supporting these programs Empire BlueCross BlueShield's corporate foundation, shows that it recognizes the importance of helping expectant mothers access needed health care services."

The grant to the March of Dimes is part of the Empire BlueCross BlueShield Foundation's ongoing commitment to addressing health disparities and improving public health in New York.  Through its State Health Index – a state-by-state compilation of public health measures – and Healthy Generations program, the Empire BlueCross BlueShield 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 Empire BlueCross BlueShield 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 CenteringPregnancy grant in New York is part of a $1 million grant from Empire BlueCross BlueShield's parent company's Foundation to the March of Dimes to improve prenatal care and education and to track the results of those efforts in 14 states:  California, 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 marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org.  Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

About the Empire BlueCross BlueShield Foundation

Through charitable grant making, the Empire BlueCross BlueShield Foundation and the Empire BlueCross Foundation, trade names of the Anthem Blue Cross Foundation L.L.C., independent licensees of the BlueCross BlueShield Association, serving residents and businesses in the 28 eastern and southeastern counties of New York State, promotes Empire's inherent commitment to enhance the health and well-being of individuals and families in communities that Empire 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.

About Empire BlueCross BlueShield

Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield (Empire) is the trade name of Empire HealthChoice Assurance, Inc., and Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield HMO is the trade name of Empire HealthChoice HMO, Inc., independent licensees of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, serving residents and businesses in the 28 eastern and southeastern counties of New York State. Additional information about Empire is available at www.anthem.com. Also, follow us on Twitter at  www.twitter.com/healthjoinin, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HealthJoinInEmpire or visit our YouTube channel

at www.youtube.com/healthjoinin.

SOURCE Empire BlueCross BlueShield