Anthem gives hospital group grant to improve perinatal care, including discouraging early, medically unnecessary deliveries

The foundation of Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield has awarded nearly $259,000 to an arm of the Kentucky Hospital Association to improve perinatal care and outcomes for mothers and their babies by discouraging early, medically unnecessary deliveries and encouraging breastfeeding.

Perinatal care, provided in the time around childbirth, is critical to ensure the good health of newborns, Anthem notes in a news release, pointing out that Kentucky’s infant mortality rate is 6.6 deaths per 1,000 births, while the national rate is 6.1, and the state’s rate of premature births, almost 14 percent, is well above the 9.6 percent goal set by the March of Dimes.

“The closer the baby is to full term, the better; but sometimes babies are born before they fully develop, weighing only a few pounds,” the release notes. “When this occurs, long stays in the hospital neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) are necessary as these babies fight health complications while learning to breathe on their own without the use of a ventilator.”

NICU stays are usually expensive. In 2012, Kentucky hospitals charged about $400 million for such treatment.

The hospital association says it has been working to reduce early, elective deliveries, with the Anthem foundation’s help, and the latest grant is designed to build on that work. It says the grant to its subsidiary, the Kentucky Institute for Patient Safety and Quality, will also promote breastfeeding, reducing blood infections in the hospital, and reducing complications related to inducing labor, including Cesarean sections.

“KIPSQ will work with all Kentucky hospitals that deliver babies to assure the best care during delivery and the best outcomes for mothers and babies,” the KHA release says. “KIPSQ will collect data to measure progress and provide resources, tools and technical assistance in quality improvement techniques to reduce prematurity, unnecessary Cesareans and improve the long-term health of newborns.

KHA says 76 of Kentucky’s 131 hospitals are members of KIPSQ, which is expanding its membership to include long-term care facilities and physicians’ practices. “The Anthem grant will improve the delivery of perinatal health care to all of the state’s birthing/neonatal hospitals, regardless of their participation in KIPSQ,” the release says.

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield is the trade name of Anthem Health Plans of Kentucky, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. The Anthem Foundation Inc. is a private, non-profit foundation.

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