The need for a “Strong Start” in life

By Marilyn Tavenner, Acting Administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Like most of us, you probably know someone who had a baby born prematurely. These children are at greater risk for complications at birth as well as for developmental and health problems that can impact their quality of life as adults. Premature births are also an economic issue– preterm and premature births cost our country and hard-working families at least an estimated $26 billion each year.

Recently, a report from the World Health Organization, the March of Dimes, Save the Children, and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health found that more than half a million babies in the United States are born preterm each year. That’s more than 130 other countries– almost tying us with Somalia, Thailand, and Turkey. Moreover, early elective deliveries still account for 10-15% of all deliveries in the United States. While the United States excels at treating premature and preterm newborns, it would be better if more of our babies were born at full term.

To safely reduce preterm and premature births, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched the Strong Start initiative earlier this year.  Strong Start builds on the work of American College of Obstetricians, the March of Dimes, and many others to reduce early elective deliveries.  Strong Start also involves change in prenatal care delivery to reduce premature and preterm births and improve outcomes for high-risk pregnant Medicaid beneficiaries and their newborns.

Decreasing early deliveries means:

  • More mothers get safe, evidence-based care and infants improve their chances for good physical and developmental health.
  • Public and private payers may see lower costs because providers are performing fewer caesarian sections for failed inductions, there are fewer neonatal intensive care unit admissions, and there are fewer associated complications for the newborns.

As a mother, I know there’s nothing more important for a child than getting off to a healthy start.  With the right resources and tools, we can make sure mothers and children around the country get the best care possible to give children a strong start in life.

Let’s get mothers and newborns off to a strong start.  Learn more about Strong Start and what you can do to reduce the rate of premature and preterm births.

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