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March of Dimes grant to benefit Centering Pregnancy

Five-week-old Delonte’ Brooks naps as his parents Rolesta and Dominique Brooks take part in a Centering Pregnancy program reunion at the Dougherty County Health Department in 2010. The March of Dimes recently received grant funding from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia Foundation that is going to benefit the Albany prenatal program. (Albany Herald file photo)

Five-week-old Delonte’ Brooks naps as his parents Rolesta and Dominique Brooks take part in a Centering Pregnancy program reunion at the Dougherty County Health Department in 2010. The March of Dimes recently received grant funding from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia Foundation that is going to benefit the Albany prenatal program. (Albany Herald file photo)

ALBANY — One in nine American babies is born prematurely, which has prompted the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia Foundation to give a two-year, $80,200 grant to the March of Dimes to support two Centering Pregnancy prenatal care programs — including the one in Albany, officials with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia have announced.

Officials say the grant will enable the March of Dimes to make the Centering Pregnancy model of care available to additional women in Georgia by supporting programs at New Millennium Obstetrics & Gynecology in Riverdale and Southwest Public Health District in Albany.

“This grant will allow the March of Dimes to help more women have healthy pregnancies and full-term deliveries,” said Dr. Scott D. Berns, senior vice president and deputy medical director of the March of Dimes. “We thank the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia Foundation for its continued support of the March of Dimes mission and the good health of moms-to-be and their babies.”

The initial payment due to the Southwest Public Health District was received in the spring, with the second half expected in the coming days. In all, the health district’s share was $30,000, said Dr. Jacqueline Grant, director of the health district.

“We are very fortunate to be a recipient of the March of Dimes’ continued grant support,” said Grant. ” … Just like at the other sites, we have had very good outcomes.”

Centering Pregnancy, developed by Centering Healthcare Institute, has been demonstrated to reduce the incidence of preterm birth and low birth weight. This prenatal care model integrates health assessment, education and support into a unified program within a group setting. Eight to 12 women with similar gestational ages meet to learn care skills, participate in a facilitated discussion and develop a support network with other group members. Each group meets for 10 sessions throughout pregnancy and early postpartum. The practitioner, within the group space, completes standard physical health assessments at each session.

“Prenatal care is extremely vital to the health care system of our state,” said Morgan Kendrick, president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia. “When you look at the number of premature babies born in our state, it is clear that one way to help is by providing education and assessment services that enable more women to carry their babies to full-term.”

This grant funding is being earmarked in Albany for the program nurse’s salary and for patient transportation costs, supplies, among other expenses.

“It pays for an array of different costs,” Grant said.

As far as measurements go, the numbers are improving in terms of outcomes and retention rates. Currently, Grant said, the program based in Albany is running at half the baseline rate for preterm births in the African-American population — which makes up for 85 percent of its patient base.

“We need to continue to get in more numbers, but … with the things we’re are tracking, it appears the program is doing what it has been designed to do,” she said.

“We are extremely grateful to the March of Dimes and Blue Cross Blue Shield. They only selected two sites, and we are proud to be one of them. It’s just a win for our community.”

There have been other grants the Centering program in Albany has received since its inception in 2009, including at least one round from the Healthcare Georgia Foundation.

“We would not survive without these grants,” Grant said. “(That we’ve been able to receive these grants) is a testimony to the work that has been done.”

Preterm birth is considered 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, and babies born just a few weeks early have higher rates of illness and hospitalization compared to full-term newborns, officials say.