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    Colorado Health Partners Join Together to Fight for 39 Weeks

    Public Awareness Campaign Focuses on Dispelling Myths around Elective Early Delivery

    Denver, CO, November 15, 2013 —

    A growing trend across the country is for a baby’s birth to be scheduled early for non-medical reasons. However, experts have found that a baby’s brain will nearly double in weight during the last few weeks of pregnancy, causing early elective deliveries to interfere with giving an infant’s body all the time it needs to grow. Colorado is successfully working to change this trend by setting policies that are aimed at giving more babies a healthy start in life. Data from the Hospital Quality Incentive Payment Program show a decrease in early elective deliveries from 6.8 percent in 2011 to 1.5 percent in 2012; a 78 percent improvement.

    Several of Colorado’s health partners including the HealthONE family of hospitals, the Colorado Hospital Association, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) have joined together with the March of Dimes to raise awareness and take concrete steps to reduce the statewide number of inductions and c-sections that occur before 39 weeks of pregnancy when there is no medical reason. For example, the Colorado Hospital Association Board of Trustees passed a resolution in 2012 to reduce preterm elective deliveries in Colorado hospitals.

    HealthONE, the largest healthcare system in the metro Denver area, is stepping forward to be an example in educating the public on the issue. Because there are still expectant parents who don’t see the danger of early elective induction, HealthONE currently partners with the March of Dimes on a “Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait” community education campaign. The campaign raises awareness that babies aren’t fully developed until 39 completed weeks of pregnancy and babies born early can have serious health issues and even end up needing to spend time in the hospital.  The campaign sends the message that if a pregnancy is healthy, it is important for labor to begin on its own. More information on the campaign can be found at WorththeWaitColorado.com.

    “At our HealthONE hospitals we see the effects of pre-term births every day in our Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) and we are committed to educating families and moms-to-be about the importance of carrying babies to full term whenever possible,” said Dan Davidson, Vice President with the HealthONE family of hospitals. “That’s why we are proud to partner with the March of Dimes in numerous endeavors, including this 39 Weeks community education effort.”

    HealthONE is taking additional steps to curtail the number of non-medically indicated deliveries. One way it  has done this is by implementing a “hard stop” policy at its hospitals, which prohibits elective deliveries before 39 weeks gestation unless it is medically necessary. HealthONE also utilizes a checklist to help ensure appropriate and safe obstetrical inductions.

    “Thankfully when serious medical conditions threatening the mom or baby, we have excellent medical methods to deliver the baby early,” said Scott Matthews, Director of Program Services at the March of Dimes Colorado Chapter. “But we know that babies born prematurely are at greater risk for health problems such as brain and lung development, vision or hearing loss, and difficulties eating after birth. Many of these can be lifelong problems so if the pregnancy is healthy, we are urging women and practitioners to let labor start on its own or if possible, control the timing until at least 39 weeks of pregnancy.”

    According to the March of Dimes, in Colorado, one in 10 Colorado babies are born premature. Thanks to collaborative efforts statewide, Colorado’s preterm birth rate has improved by 16 percent since 2006, sparing nearly 5,000 babies and resulting in an estimated savings of over $142 million in healthcare costs. Nationwide, preterm birth costs the United States more than $26 billion annually, according to a 2006 Institute of Medicine report.  It is the leading cause of newborn death, and babies who survive an early birth often face the risk of lifelong health challenges.

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