A Memphis Initiative to Reduce Premature Births

Babies born prematurely are prone to a range of health problems. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), 10 to 15 percent of all births in the United States are induced early without a medical reason. This means that millions of babies unnecessarily face risks associated with prematurity. In an effort to lower this number, CMS launched the Strong Start for Mothers and Newborns Initiative. Beginning in February 2012, this four year initiative is testing ways to encourage best practices for reducing the number of early elective deliveries. Most notably, this initiative is testing three models of enhanced prenatal care for reducing preterm births among women by Medicaid and CHIP. The initiative utilizes a broad based multi-media and educational outreach campaign, partners with advocacy and professional organizations, and enlists the aid of over 3,700 hospitals. 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 are encouraged to participate in the initiative.1

Memphis and Shelby County are an area that is high risk for prematurity, and the University of Tennessee Medical Group received a $260,000 grant to reduce the number of early births. Partnering with The Regional Medical Center at Memphis, the University of Tennessee Medical Group is enrolling 2,250 local women over the next three years to participate in a study. Group participants are given care at both The Med and at the hospital's Hollywood Health Loop which specifically targets three areas of premature risk factors. The first area includes medical factors like past preterm births, drug use, or other medical issues within the mother like diabetes. The second area includes demographic factors including race and socioeconomic status. The third area includes social factors such as drug use and poor dieting.2 The group approach is defined as "group prenatal care that incorporates peer-to-peer interaction in a facilitated setting for health assessment, education, and psycho-social support."1


CMS Media Relations. (2013). Fact Sheets: Details for: STRONG START FOR MOTHERS AND NEWBORNS: TESTING APPROACHES TO PRENATAL CARE. Accessed April 15, 2013.  Available here.

Memphis Business Journal. (2013). "UT Medical Group Gets $260,000 for Preterm Birth Initiative." The Med Foundation. Available here.