Start Smart: Improving the Health of Newborns
Health & Wellness, Innovations & Initiatives
January is National Birth Defects Awareness Month – a time to raise awareness about problems that occur while a baby is developing in the womb and to improve the health of people living with them.
Birth defects typically develop during the first three months of pregnancy and affect one or more parts of the body. According to the CDC, about 1 in 33 babies in the U.S. is born with a birth defect each year. Spina bifida, Down Syndrome, and cleft lip are among common birth defects.
Centene and its health plans manage more than 200,000 births each year. For 13 years, our Start Smart for Your Baby® program has been providing support and health education to birthing parents to improve maternal and newborn health and reduce the risk of birth defects.
One of the hallmarks of Start Smart is the effort to continually improve the program. Most recently, that’s meant the leveraging of advanced technology, including a new risk model, based on machine learning data science, that is more accurate and helps identify candidates for the program and their risk for delivering low-birth-weight babies earlier, thus increasing their probability of a healthier birth outcome. Start Smart now also uses consumer data to improve early identification of pregnant members.
Prior to the technological updates, Centene health plans were largely reliant on providers’ notifications that they were caring for a pregnant member to begin the enrollment process for the birthing parent-to-be. Start Smart’s data and analyses now also offer more robust insights so that health plans can provide targeted support, including clinical guidance for members throughout their pregnancies, transportation support, and perinatal depression screening, among many potential one-on-one interventions – all with the goal of improving the health of the baby and the birthing parent.
Approximately 30 percent of Centene health plan deliveries are high-risk. Identifying high-risk pregnant members and intervening early can lead to better birth outcomes. As participation in the Start Smart for Your Baby program has increased, the number of low- and very-low-birth-weight deliveries have decreased – a metric for healthier pregnancies - with very low-birth-weight rates dropping by more than 30 percent across Centene health plans. The Start Smart for Your Baby program has demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in the health of both the birthing parent and the baby during pregnancy and the birth outcome. The program has achieved significant financial cost savings – estimated to be more than $50 million annually.
In addition to the support described above, Start Smart participants can count on services including:
- Help finding a doctor and setting up appointments.
- Special assistance to high-risk members enrolled in the OB care management program.
- A personal nursing staff and a 24/7 nurse advice line.
- Robust text and email campaigns for tips on pregnancy and newborn care.
- A supplemental breastfeeding program for services and support.