The University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) has received $344,224 to support prenatal care among women who are at risk of having preterm births. The funding is provided through a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, under the Strong Start for Mothers and Newborns Program. Linda Moses-Simmons, MD, an assistant professor in the UTHSC Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, College of Medicine, will spearhead the three-year project. A cooperative agreement provides for substantial involvement between the federal awarding agency, CMS in this case, and the non-federal entity, UTHSC, in carrying out the activity contemplated by the federal award.
The purpose of the CMS Strong Start for Mothers and Newborns Program is to provide better care, ensure improved health, and reduce health care costs by improving outcomes for pregnant women on Medicaid who are at risk for having preterm birth and low-birth-weight infants. Specifically, the goal is to determine whether improved prenatal care can increase the gestational age of neonates enough to lower the anticipated total cost of medical care over the first year of life for children born to at-risk mothers. The main operational site for the UTHSC program is Regional One Health.
UTHSC bases its efforts in Shelby County, Tennessee, which encompasses the Memphis metropolitan area. The target population for this initiative is Medicaid-eligible women residing in Shelby County who are at high risk for preterm birth. It is hoped that providing education and peer support for women at risk for preterm birth will teach the importance of prenatal and postnatal care to potential mothers and help to improve birth outcomes in Shelby County.
Babies born preterm – before their full gestation period — are prone to a range of often serious health problems and suffer a high mortality rate. According to CMS, every year millions of babies face risks associated with premature birth. One of the enhanced approaches of the CMS Strong Start initiative is group care, implemented at UTHSC through the Centering Pregnancy (CP) Program. In this program, prenatal care is offered in conjunction with enhanced prenatal services. Small groups of women of similar gestational ages follow an eight- to 10-session appointment schedule of group visits facilitated by a doctor or midwife. Women in this group are able to share their experiences, learn from one another, and be motivated to adopt health-promoting behaviors. If Strong Start for Mothers and Newborns is successfully implemented, issues such as outcomes for at-risk mothers, birth weights and gestational age of infants may improve.
“We can all do something to make a difference in premature birth and deliveries, which are leading causes of infant mortality,” said Dr. Moses-Simmons. “Programs like CP help in ensuring patients do their part.”
The project described was supported by Grant Number CMS-1D1-12-001 from the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The content of this publication is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or any of its agencies.