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Kalona, Iowa
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Newspaper Article Archive of
The Kalona News

October 30, 2018 To Improve Newborn Health in South Carolina, Think Beyond Healthcare
Article Pages -- as published on the The Kalona News website.

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ARTICLE DESCRIPTION:

(BPT) - According to the March of Dimes, the preterm birth rate in the United States has increased for the second year in a row. This is a startling reversal after years of a steady decline.

Teens, women over age 35, African-American women and women with low income are at greater risk of giving birth to preterm and low birth weight babies. This problem is particularly severe in South Carolina, which earned a D grade from the March of Dimes Premature Birth Rate Report Card due to one in nine babies being born preterm in the state.

Lack of prenatal care can lead to preterm births, which can ultimately result in lifelong health challenges for children, including disabilities, developmental delays and chronic conditions. Further, the American Academy of Pediatrics reports children who experience poverty, particularly during early life or for an extended period of time, are also at risk for a host of adverse health and developmental issues throughout their lives.

Stacey Stewart, president of the March of Dimes, stated it plainly in a recent interview: “The chance of a baby’s survival should not depend on where a baby is born, or the income, race and ethnicity of her mom.”

While prenatal health is important for any expectant mom, it can be especially critical for low-income women, many of whom receive coverage from Medicaid. The increased health risks for a low-income woman and her baby — much like other low-income populations — is often tied to social and economic factors. As a result, WellCare Health Plans, a Medicaid provider in South Carolina, helps connect its Medicaid members to social services through its Community Connections program. According to WellCare, the top social service requests for South Carolina residents in 2017 included medication, food and transportation assistance.

The March of Dimes has set a national goal of reducing preterm birth rates to 8.1 percent by 2020, but to get there, experts agree there are critical points along the journey an expectant mom takes to ensuring she, and her baby, can be as healthy as possible.

Three keys to improving newborn health in South Carolina, especially for low-income women on Medicaid:

Improve Prenatal Care Programs: Many women start prenatal care late, or get no prenatal care at all. There are programs across the state that can help expectant moms maintain proper prenatal health habits, as well as preparation for after their baby is born. The WellCare of South Carolina team, for example, employs prenatal and pediatric specialists to work one-on-one with members to coordinate their care. Consequently, WellCare has seen an increase in women seeking prenatal care in a timely manner and post-partum care rates.

Going Beyond Healthcare: It’s hard to maintain healthy behaviors during pregnancy when you don’t have a place to live or can’t get to your doctor’s appointments because of lack of transportation. By building connections between healthcare and social services, those barriers can be addressed. There are a number of social services available across the state of South Carolina to help with social and economic barriers.

Assistance and Support after Baby’s Birth: Women who are having difficulty finding the prenatal care they need and are at high risk for preterm birth, or who have gone through preterm birth, need additional assistance. Personalized services, including support after baby’s birth and in-home monitoring of the baby’s health, can help women who have a preterm newborn to manage the medical and emotional aspects, and help new moms keep up with well-baby checkups and immunizations.

WellCare of South Carolina offers a Community Connections Help Line to help connect callers with local support resources. Please call (866) 775-2192 for help, where someone is available Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (local time).

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