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HHS announces 27 Strong Start for Mothers and Newborns awards

Participants to improve prenatal care to women covered by Medicaid and CHIP

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced 27 recipients of new Strong Start for Mothers and Newborns awards, made possible by the Affordable Care Act.  Up to $41.4 million can be used by states, caregivers and others to find new ways to prevent significant, long-term health problems for high-risk pregnant women and newborns enrolled in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, we are helping communities across the country improve prenatal care for expectant mothers so that they can have a healthy delivery and a healthy baby,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  “The Strong Start initiative will help find ways to reduce the rate of preterm births, which is a public health problem with significant long-term consequences for families and children.”

More than half a million infants are born prematurely in America each year.  Costs associated with preterm births are around $26 billion a year. Children born preterm require costly medical attention, often require early intervention services and special education, and can develop conditions that may affect their health and productivity as adults.

“As a nurse and a mother, I know there is nothing more important for a child than getting off to a healthy start,” said Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner.  “We are excited to be partnering with health care providers and community organizations across the country to improve prenatal care to women covered by Medicaid and CHIP.”

The Strong Start awards will be located in 32 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and will serve more than 80,000 women enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP over the three intervention years.  The grants will support enhanced prenatal care through group visits, at birth centers, and at maternity medical homes. These approaches expand access to care, improve care coordination, and provide psychosocial support to pregnant women.  Today’s awardees were chosen for the quality of the proposal and geographic diversity that will meet the goals of the Strong Start initiative.

Strong Start awardees will be serving women in the areas with the highest preterm birth rates in the country, including areas that are among the top ten prematurity and infant mortality counties according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Strong Start for Mothers and Newborns initiative is an effort by HHS to reduce preterm births and improve outcomes for newborns and pregnant women.  This initiative is a joint effort between the CMS, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and the Administration on Children and Families (ACF) and is also supported by various programs across the multiple agencies of HHS.  The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation (CMS Innovation Center) will administer these awards through cooperative agreements over four years.

For more information on the awards announced today, please go to: innovation.cms.gov/initiatives/Strong-Start/index.html.  

To learn more about other innovative models being tested by the CMS Innovation Center, please visit: innovation.cms.gov.

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