Published June 23, 2016
March of Dimes supportive pregnancy care enables expectant mothers to access prenatal care on a monthly basis in a supportive group setting with women who are of similar gestational ages. During each visit, expectant mothers will have more time with their care providers than they would during their standard individual prenatal checkups, and benefit from prenatal care education and vital social and emotional support from other mothers. This environment can empower women to take control of their pregnancy care and fosters relationships that can last throughout their pregnancies and beyond.
Funded by $700,000 from UnitedHealth Group, March of Dimes and UnitedHealth Group will collaborate to develop the program's content and curriculum, and make it available to participating care providers. The curriculum will adhere to the prenatal care standards of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
March of Dimes will operate the program in Tennessee beginning fourth-quarter 2016. The program will include web-based tools and a social media platform to enable mothers to connect and socialize with each other online outside the group sessions and access helpful information on healthy pregnancies. The program will be open to any expecting mother interested in participating, regardless of insurance coverage.
March of Dimes and UnitedHealth Group will evaluate the program's performance over the coming months to build a case study with a goal to expand the model to more care providers and health systems across the country.
"Preterm birth takes a devastating toll on the health of families in the United States and costs the health care system billions," said March of Dimes President Dr. Jennifer L. Howse. "And for the first time in eight years, the national preterm birth rate has increased rather than decreased. Preterm birth continues to be the No. 1 killer of babies. We must redouble our efforts to prevent the serious lifelong health consequences that many babies suffer from being born too soon. Our enhanced group prenatal care program could help change this dynamic, one mother and child at a time. We are pleased to work with UnitedHealth Group to accelerate the adoption of group prenatal care that can make a positive difference in so many lives."
Dr. Deneen Vojta, a pediatrician and executive vice president at UnitedHealth Group's Enterprise Research and Development, said: "group prenatal care is part of the future of care for expecting mothers and their babies because it's about creating emotional and social support, motivation and education to have a healthy birth and baby. We are grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with March of Dimes to put mothers and babies on the path to better health and reduce health care costs."
According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), nearly 10 percent of all births in the United States are preterm, meaning these babies are born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. That represents one of the highest prematurity rates of any developed country in the world. The March of Dimes 2015 Premature Birth Report Card shows serious disparities continue to exist among communities and among racial and ethnic groups in the United States, with African-American infants more than twice as likely to be born preterm as white infants.
The economic costs of preterm births reached $26.2 billion in 2006 – the most recent data available from the Institute of Medicine – accounting for more than one-third of all U.S. health care spending for infants, according to the Institute of Medicine. A premature birth costs employers about 10 times more than a healthy, full-term birth in the first year of life ($55,393 vs. $5,085), according to a 2014 analysis by Truven Health Analytics commissioned by the March of Dimes.
Babies who survive an early birth often have lifelong health issues such as cerebral palsy, vision and hearing loss, and intellectual disabilities. Even infants born just a few weeks early have a greater risk of respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), feeding difficulties, temperature instability (hypothermia), jaundice and delayed brain development.
Group prenatal care has gained momentum in recent years and has shown promising evidence that it can lead to healthier pregnancies and births, and lay the foundation for better lifelong health. In addition to providing substantially more contact with health care providers, prenatal care delivered in a group setting can motivate pregnant women to be more actively engaged in their health care, offer support services, and meet the needs of pregnant women and their families more effectively.
Research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that a group setting for prenatal care was associated with fewer preterm births, reduced incidence of low-birth-weight infants, and shorter neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) stays after birth. States and the federal government bear a substantial share of the costs of preterm birth through the Medicaid program, which covers roughly half of all births. The potential net savings to the Medicaid program over a five-year period would equal roughly $12 billion if half the pregnant women enrolled in Medicaid were to receive care through a group model, according to research from the UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform & Modernization.
Successfully scaling this program is expected to improve population health outcomes, reduce disparities and decrease systemwide costs. March of Dimes' goal for the program is to reduce the nation's preterm birth rate to 5.5 percent by 2030 from the 2015 preliminary NCHS rate of 9.6 percent.
The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. For more than 75 years, moms and babies have benefited from March of Dimes research, education, vaccines, and breakthroughs. For the latest resources and health information, visit our websites marchofdimes.org and nacersano.org. If you have been affected by prematurity or birth defects, visit our shareyourstory.org community to find comfort and support. For detailed national, state and local perinatal statistics, visit persistats.org. You can also find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.
UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) is a diversified health and well-being company dedicated to helping people live healthier lives and helping to make the health system work better for everyone. UnitedHealth Group offers a broad spectrum of products and services through two distinct platforms: UnitedHealthcare, which provides health care coverage and benefits services; and Optum, which provides information and technology-enabled health services. For more information, visit UnitedHealth Group at www.unitedhealthgroup.com or follow @UnitedHealthGrp on Twitter.