February 28, 2013, Washington, District of Columbia– Preterm birth is estimated to cost over $26 billion per year and impacts close to 12% of all births in the United States. Preterm birth is associated with increased risk of lifelong health and developmental problems. The preterm birth rate has increased by 36 percent in the last 20 years.

In response to this persistent problem, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation announced early last year that it would be awarding grants to initiatives that could demonstrate viable models for reducing preterm birth. The American Association of Birth Centers was recently chosen to receive a $5.35 million four year grant to measure outcomes and costs from enhanced prenatal care using the birth center model of care for women enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP who are at risk of having a preterm birth.

The birth center model of enhanced prenatal care program, known as AABC Strong Start in Birth Centers, will be evaluated in 48 birth center sites, located in 22 states across the US.

Birth center maternity care is focused on the needs of the woman and her family, and is a time intensive relationship-based style of care that employs evidence based care, collaborative practice, health education and emotional support. Birth center care is a collaborative practice, with teams of health professionals available for referral when needed.

“Freestanding Birth Centers have a strong track record of providing high quality care for mothers and babies for over 30 years in the U.S, including significantly lower preterm birth rates. AABC looks forward to partnering with CMMI to identify how birth centers can best contribute to a national solution to improving our maternal infant outcomes,” said Jill Alliman, Project Director for AABC’s Strong Start project.

The superior outcomes and cost savings of birth centers were recently re-confirmed by the National Birth Center Study II, published in January 2013. Study data demonstrate a 6% cesarean rate and significant cost savings over the cost of hospital care. Study authors estimated the savings from study participants in NBCS II of over $30 million.

AABC is one of 27 awardees nationally, and one of two that will test the birth center model of care to reduce preterm births and improve maternal infant outcomes while measuring cost. Breath of Life Women’s Health & Birth Center in Largo, Florida will participate as one of the Strong Start sites. Breath of Life began serving the Tampa Bay community in 2007 and is Florida’s first nationally-accredited birth center. More information is available on the Strong Start initiative from the CMS Innovations Center.

About the American Association of Birth Centers:

The American Association of Birth Centers (AABC) is a multi-disciplinary membership organization comprised of birth centers, and individuals and organizations that support the birth center concept including certified nurse-midwives (CNMs), certified professional midwives (CPMs), physicians, nurses, women and their families. Founded in 1983, AABC is dedicated to developing quality holistic services for childbearing families that promote self-reliance and confidence in birth and parenting. AABC publishes materials on birth centers, sets national standards for birth center operation, and promotes state regulations for licensure and national accreditation by the Commission for the Accreditation of Birth Centers. More information about AABC can be found at: www.birthcenters.org.

About the Strong Start for Mothers and Newborns Initiative:

The Strong Start for Mothers and Newborns initiative is an effort by HHS to reduce preterm births and improve outcomes for newborns and pregnant women. This initiative is a joint effort between the CMS, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and the Administration on Children and Families (ACF) and is also supported by various programs across the multiple agencies of HHS. The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation (CMS Innovation Center) will administer these awards through cooperative agreements over four years.

For more information on the awards, please go to: innovation.cms.gov/initiatives/Strong- Start/index.html.