Thursday, June 03, 2010

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia Foundation Awards $25,000 to March of Dimes Helping Georgia's Babies Get a Healthy Start in Life

/PRNewswire/ -- Pregnant women in Georgia will receive critical prenatal services and education from the March of Dimes, thanks to a $25,000 grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia (BCBSGA)'s Foundation a private, nonprofit organization wholly funded by BCBSGA's parent company's Foundation.

"This grant will help women have healthy babies by educating them about the importance of good health choices," said Joanne Patterson, March of Dimes Programs Committee Chair. "It's important for women who are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant to use this time to educate themselves on how to have a healthy, full-term baby."

The March of Dimes Georgia Chapter will receive $25,000 from the BCBSGA Foundation to fund local sites for Centering Pregnancy- a model of prenatal care that includes three main components (assessment, education and support) in a group setting. One of the local March of Dimes Centering Pregnancy grants will partially fund the Southwest Public Health District's, Due What's Best project in Albany, GA. The Centering Pregnancy grant will expand access to early prenatal care for low income rural African American women.

Centering Pregnancy has proven to help reduce prematurity rates, increase breastfeeding rates and significantly improve patient satisfaction. Group prenatal care encourages pregnant women to adopt healthy behaviors during pregnancy with a focus on nutrition, weight gain, exercise, hygiene, common discomforts of pregnancy, relaxation breathing, breastfeeding, birth plans, contraception, emotional well-being and pediatric care.

"Our work with the March of Dimes is an integral part of our efforts to improve the lives of the people we serve and the health of our communities," said Monye Connolly, president, BCBSGA. "Through the Foundation, we are able to provide support to vital programs like Centering Pregnancy."

More than 540,000 babies are born too soon each year in the United States. Preterm birth costs the nation more than $26 billion annually, according to the Institute of Medicine. It is the leading cause of newborn death, and babies who survive an early birth face the risk of lifelong health problems such as breathing problems, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, developmental delays, vision and hearing loss.

Even babies born just a few weeks too soon (34-36 weeks gestation, also known as late preterm birth) have higher rates of death and disability than full-term babies.

"This program is an important component of BCBSGA's Foundation's goal of increasing the number of women who receive prenatal care in the first trimester, ultimately helping to reduce the number of babies with a low birth weight or that are born preterm," said Janice Hutchings, program director - social responsibility of BCBSGA's parent company's Foundation. "We are pleased to support the March of Dimes to address such critical health issues."

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