UI Health, March of Dimes partner to prevent premature births

nurse holding babyThe March of Dimes has selected UI Health as the Illinois site to implement a new program to reduce premature delivery.

UI Health will receive $40,000 a year for three years to support the pilot program, “Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait.”

The program will also be implemented at more than 30 sites in Kentucky, Texas, Kansas, New Jersey and New York.

A full-term pregnancy lasts 40 weeks. Premature delivery — defined as before 37 weeks of gestation — and extreme prematurity, before 32 weeks, add significant risk for immediate and lifelong health problems, including developmental delays and heart and lung problems.

Costs of caring for a premature infant can reach half a million dollars if longterm care in a neonatal intensive care unit is needed.

Nearly 10 percent of births in the U.S. are premature, but among UI Health’s largely disadvantaged patient population, the rate is about 15 percent.

“The patients we see at UI Health have higher rates of medical and obstetrical complications and so are at higher risk for having their babies prematurely,” said Dimitrios Mastrogiannis, director of maternal-fetal medicine and co-principal investigator on the grant.

“Several socioeconomic factors contribute to premature birth in our patient population,” Mastrogiannis said.

African Americans are at the highest risk and account for about half of UI Health’s patient population, he said.

UI Health already screens all pregnant patients to identify those at risk for preterm delivery. Under the Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait program, all women who call for prenatal care appointments at UI Health and its Mile Square Health Centers — about 2,500 patients annually — will be interviewed to determine their risk for preterm delivery.

Women at higher risk will be matched with an advanced-practice nurse and a community health worker, and offered classes on healthy pregnancy.

“Providing extra follow up and specialized care to high-risk women can bring premature birth rates down” and help prevent about half of all premature births, said Beena Peters, associate director of nursing for women and children’s health services and co-principal investigator on the grant. 

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