WASHINGTON, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Washington has awarded more than $41 million to states to improve prenatal care for women at risk, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said.
Sebelius announced 27 recipients would receive $41.4 million for Strong Start for Mothers and Newborns awards to be used by states, caregivers and others to find new ways to prevent significant, long-term health problems for high-risk pregnant women and newborns.
The awards will go to 32 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and will serve more than 80,000 women enrolled in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program over three years.
The grants will support enhanced prenatal care via group visits, birth centers and at maternity medical homes.
"Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, we are helping communities across the country improve prenatal care for expectant mothers so that they can have a healthy delivery and a healthy baby," Sebelius said in a statement. "The Strong Start initiative will help find ways to reduce the rate of preterm births, which is a public health problem with significant long-term consequences for families and children."
More than a half million U.S. infants are born prematurely each year, costing $26 billion a year. Children born preterm require costly medical attention, often require early intervention services and special education, and can develop conditions that may affect their health and productivity as adults, Sebelius said.