Sen. Carper Highlights New Program to Increase Healthy Deliveries and Reduce Preterm Births

The Strong Start Initiative will provide grants to healthcare organizations and coalitions to improve health care to pregnant women covered by Medicaid

WASHINGTON – Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) highlighted new grants and a public campaign to increase healthy deliveries and reduce preterm births. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is launching the Strong Start Initiative, a nationwide public-private partnership and awareness campaign to share best practices that can reduce the rate of early births prior to 39 weeks for all populations, and a corresponding program to reduce the rate of preterm births for women covered by Medicaid through testing innovative and comprehensive prenatal health care models.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (Innovation Center) will award up to $43.2 million in grants through a competitive process to healthcare organizations and coalitions to improve prenatal care to women covered by Medicaid. The grants will support the testing of more comprehensive and coordinated prenatal care models, such as individual case management at birth centers and at maternity care homes where pregnant women have expanded access to better integrated, enhanced prenatal care.

The Strong Start Initiative will also save taxpayer dollars by reducing costs in Medicaid. Estimates show that health care in the first year of life for preterm babies covered by Medicaid averages $20,000, compared to just $2,100 for full-term infants. With Medicaid paying for almost half of American births each year, a 10 percent reduction in preterm births would save Medicaid and taxpayers over $75 million each year, while strengthening the health care we provide to expectant mothers.

“This effort by the Department of Health and Human Services is critical to improving prenatal care for women in Delaware and across the country,” said Sen. Carper. “As Governor, I established programs to increase healthy births and improve early childhood development in Delaware. In Congress, I have also sought innovative ways to improve health outcomes while lowering healthcare costs. This opportunity to increase healthy deliveries and prevent preterm births is a true win-win, both improving the health of mothers and their children while reducing healthcare costs. The Strong Start Initiative is an important step in the right direction for getting better results for less money in our healthcare system, and I encourage Delaware health organizations both to apply for grant funding and to participate in this innovative awareness campaign.”

Delaware continues to make a concerted effort to reduce its infant mortality rate through improving prenatal care. In 2011, Delaware’s Division of Public Health (DPH) announced that the First State’s infant mortality rate had dropped by 10 percent since 2000. DPH’s Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies program has been recognized nationally by the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs for providing evidence-based preventive services beyond the scope of routine prenatal care.

In January, Sen. Carper highlighted Delaware’s successes with the “Text4Baby” program – a free text-messaging service from the National Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition that provides prenatal advice and healthy lifestyle tips to expectant mothers and fathers. Delaware was the highest state in the nation for enrollment from May through October, 2011, bringing enrollment to nearly 1,000 expecting or new parents.

For more information on these grants and to learn more about efforts to reduce preterm births and early elective deliveries, please visit