Partnerships between the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, nonprofit advocacy groups and Louisiana hospitals reduced the number of days babies born in Louisiana have spent in Neonatal Intensive Care units by 20,000, according to preliminary data from DHH's Birth Outcomes Initiative.
As part of its work to improve birth outcomes in Louisiana, DHH is recognizing its partners for their commitment to improving the health of mothers and babies in the state through outreach and informational programs. DHH's commitment to the cause is two-fold - its programs push for healthier births and its employees fundraise for the March of Dimes in Louisiana.
Currently, DHH's Birth Outcomes Initiative is monitoring how and why many deliveries occur before 39 weeks of pregnancy. BOI partnered with the March of Dimes and Louisiana Hospital Association to create the 39 Week Initiative. Through this initiative, 58 hospitals in Louisiana established policies to end the practice of elective, non-medically indicated deliveries prior to 39 weeks gestation.
Babies' organs, including the brain and lungs, continue to develop during the last few weeks of gestation. Babies who are born prematurely have a greater chance of newborn health complications, such as breathing problems, and often must spend time in the NICU receiving costly specialized care. Preliminary BOI data shows that from 2010, when the initiative began, to 2012, babies born in Louisiana have spent 20,000 fewer days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
"We are excited to see what BOI's preliminary data is revealing about preterm births," said Medicaid Medical Director Dr. Rebekah Gee, who is also a licensed OB/GYN. "Ultimately, 20,000 fewer days spent in the NICU means babies are going home with their parents sooner after birth. Louisiana still has the highest Caesarean section rate in the country, but with innovative ways of collecting data and educating the public, the BOI team looks forward to increasing the State's number of vaginal births."
"Maternal and child health is extremely important to improving the public's health. Through the Birth Outcomes Initiative and the Maternal and Child Health program, we are reaching countless moms and babies and making their health and wellness the top priority," said Assistant Secretary for Public Health J.T. Lane. "I am very proud that DHH employees have invested in and shown so much support for the March of Dimes and future generations of Louisianians."