West Virginia Perinatal Wellness Study
a project of the
West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition
West Virginia Community Voices
funded by the
Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation


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The West Virginia Perinatal Wellness Study is dealing with issues critical to the economic future of West Virginia. It is a goal of the project to educate the public about the relevance of these issues to the education and well-being of our citizenry and the impact on our state businesses. The media is concerned a partner in conveying this information to the public in order to stimulate public dialogue and action on the issues.

For more information, contact:
Nancy Tolliver, Project Director, 304-342-8237
Ann Dacey, Project Co-Director, 304-293-8891


Biz Magazine Article (2/06):  BETTER BUSINESSES, BETTER BABIES




Biz Magazine
February 2006

Better Businesses, Better Babies
A Healthy Start is Important for Both Babies and Business

By Ann Dacey and Scott Rotruck 

Healthcare issues are reaching another crescendo of importance nationally, and are becoming more critical to West Virginia citizens, our communities, and the economy everyday. Healthcare issues have profound impacts on business from startups to Fortune 500 companies. Getting off to a good start is a must for birthing health babies and healthy companies. West Virginia is working hard to find new ways to increase the affordability and accessibility of healthcare for all its citizens and to lower competitive pressures on business.  Recently, a statewide teleconference was held to discuss pending legislation and the findings of the Governor’s Healthcare Advisory Council. The focus was broad, the challenges identified difficult, and easy solutions non-existent. However, there is much that can be done very early in a life that will make a huge difference in the quality of life and the cost of health care. 

In the past year there has been an increased focus on the needs of children with conferences held on children’s health, early childhood care and education, which have lead up to Children’s Day at the Legislature on Thursday, February 23, 2020.  We are blessed in the Morgantown area to have world class healthcare facilities, great knowledge about children’s issues, and the compassion and expertise of folks like Ann Dacey who was kind enough to author the following analysis: 

Motherhood is alive and well in corporate America! That’s because more and more businesses are incorporating prenatal wellness programs into their work places. Why is that? It’s because prenatal worksite wellness programs save companies lots of money by improving the health of mothers and babies. Prenatal wellness programs have reduced employer costs by millions of dollars. The National Business Group on Health says One unhealthy birth can cost anywhere from $20,000 to more than $1,000,000, compared to about $6,400 for a normal, healthy delivery[1]. 

The number of women in the workforce is growing. Women of childbearing age comprise one-third of the nation’s workforce. Eight out of ten women will become pregnant in their working life and most continue to work, and return to work shortly after the baby is born.  Of mothers with children under age three, 61% were employed in 2000, compared with just 34% in 1975. 

According to Wayne N. Burton, M.D., Senior Vice President and Corporate Medical Director of Bank One Corporation: 

 “Pregnancy related expenses are the single largest component of health care costs for many corporations..... Fortunately, many of the risk factors associated with preterm and low birth weight babies are modifiable.”

Modifiable is the significant word here. Many health behaviors such as smoking, poor eating habits, substance abuse, and poor dental hygiene can be modified through counseling and education. 

According to the March of Dimes, U.S. businesses spend $5.6 billion annually for the care of pre-term and low birth-weight babies. In addition to the direct health care costs, the related, indirect costs of increased absenteeism, higher disability costs and lowered productivity magnify the problem. Consequently, many companies have implemented innovative programs aimed at ensuring good maternal and child health. These companies have drastically reduced their health care costs by reducing the number of preterm births and cesarean sections or complicated deliveries.

In 1992 Philadelphia-based CIGNA Corp figured this out. In a study called The Corporate Cost of Poor Birth Outcomes, CIGNA found out that childbirth-related expenses account for between 10% and 49% of employers' total health-care costs. Adding the expenses of absenteeism, disability, turnover and cost shifting compounds this cost further.  

CIGNA then went on to develop award winning prenatal wellness programs aimed at modifying health behaviors to improve pregnancy outcomes. CIGNA’s Healthy Babies Prenatal Program delivered an average savings of $5,000 per birth.  

CIGNA didn’t stop there! The company developed a program for supervisors called “The Expectant Managers’ Program” to educate managers on ways of avoiding problems with their employees' pregnancies. The program helps managers understand more about pregnancy and how to help their employees avoid costly premature and low birth weight Babies. The developer of the program said the program also helps to combat the problem of women being afraid to tell their bosses about their pregnancy. Many women report that they are afraid to complain about some of the discomforts of pregnancy which may actually be signs of premature birth. In CIGNA’s program, expectant managers are taught to be more empathetic and to understand the causes and prevention of premature birth. According to Cigna, women who receive a positive attitude about their pregnancies from a manager are seven times more likely to return to work after the birth.  

A study by Bank One Corporation showed that participants in their March of Dimes prenatal health education program had fewer cesarean deliveries and slightly fewer LBW and premature deliveries compared with non-participants.  In addition, participants’ average medical costs per delivery were lower.

The Sunbeam-Oster Company decided to control some of its health care costs by providing prenatal care classes for its pregnant employees. Their program resulted in fewer premature births and a significant decline in its maternal and newborn care costs. Maternal and newborn case costs declined by 86% which more than covered the cost of the program.

More successful programs are described in the previously referenced Washington Business Group on Health’s report entitled Business, Babies and the Bottom Line: Corporate Innovations and Best Practices in Maternal and Child Health.

Where can a business find help?

There’s good news for businesses. The March of Dimes offers businesses a free pregnancy and newborn health information program called Healthy Babies Healthy Businesses (HBHB) which enables companies to provide their employees with accurate, up-to-date information on pregnancy and newborn health issues from a respected authority in the field. An online demonstration of Healthy Babies Healthy is available at http://marchofdimes.com/hbhb/:

HMHB is intranet based and contains high-quality pregnancy and newborn health content with a special focus on preventing birth defects and reducing prematurity. The pregnancy and healthy baby content delivers educational messages to employees whenever and however they need it. For companies without intranet capabilities, the March of Dimes has other, well researched programs.

In the next few months you will be hearing more about how West Virginia can improve the health of our mothers and babies. The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation funded a Perinatal Wellness Study which will be conducted this year by West Virginia Community Voices, Inc.

West Virginia’s infant mortality rate and percent of low-birth weight babies have increased significantly ranking West Virginia well below other states and below the national average for these two indicators of child well-being. West Virginia medical professionals report many pregnant women continue to smoke, and some are addicted to illegal drugs. Professionals also report that West Virginia has a high percent of infants receiving expensive neonatal intensive care services and insufficient programs promoting perinatal wellness.

We need to act now! Everyone is affected by prematurity in some way—families, businesses, schools, health professionals, the nation as a whole. Everyone can and must help because when our state’s babies are in danger, a united and passionate response is called for. There is much that companies can do, as well, to address the problem of premature birth and help employees have healthy, full-term babies.

[1] Business, Babies and the Bottom Line: Corporate Innovations and Best Practices in Maternal and Child Health, National Business Group on Health.

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  Photo Gallery  (click on photo to enlarge)

Back row: Scott Rotruck, President, Morgantown Chamber of Commerce; Robert Nerhood, MD, Chief - Obstetrics and Gynecology, Marshall University Medical School; Angelita Nixon, Certified Nurse Midwife, Chair - West Virginia Chapter American College of Nurse Midwives; Nancy J. Tolliver, RN, MSIR, Director, WV Perinatal Wellness Study

2nd row: Steven Summers, President/CEO, West Virginia Hospital Association;

Front Row: First Lady Gayle Manchin

Back Row: Giovanni Piedomonte, MD, Professor and Chair, Department of Pediatrics, West Virginia University School of Medicine

Middle Row: John N. Udall, Jr., M.D., PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Pediatrics, West Virginia University, Charleston Division; Beverly Walter, Vice President for Programs, Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation; Joan Phillips, MD, Chair, WV Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics/CAMC

Front Row: First Lady Gayle Manchin

Back row: Tom Heywood, Bowles, Rice, McDavid, Graff & Love LLP; Stephen H. Bush, MD, Assoc. Prof & Chair, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.

2nd Row: Scott Rotruck, President, Morgantown Area Chamber of Commerce; Ann Dacey, RN, Special Projects Coordinator, WVU National Center of Excellence in Women's Health, West Virginia University- Morgantown; Pat Moore Moss, MSW, Office Director, Maternal, Child, and Family Health, WV DHHR; Michael W. Vernon, PhD, Professor and Interim Leader, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, West Virginia University School of Medicine - Morgantown

Front Row: First Lady Gayle Manchin

Back Row: Janet Graeber, MD, Associate Professor and Director of Neonatology, Department of Pediatrics, West Virginia University School of Medicine; Giovanni Piedomonte, MD, Professor and Chair, Department of Pediatrics, West Virginia University School of Medicine; Patricia J. Kelly, M. D., Immediate Past President, West Virginia Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics, Marshall University Medical School; Miriam Perez, MD, Pediatrician

Top of Stairs: Joan Phillips, MD, American Academy of Pediatrics/CAMC, Director- Child Quality Health Project

Front Row: Donna Dorinzi, MSN, RNC-NP, Maternal Fetal Medicine, Director High Risk Clinic, West Virginia University - Morgantown; First Lady Gayle Manchin

Back Row: Frances Hughes, West Virginia Attorney General's Office; Pam Jones, Mountain State Blue Cross Blue Shield; Heather Hixenbaugh, M. D., Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, West Virginia University School of Medicine

Third Row: Denise Ferris, PhD. Office Director, Women’s, Infants, and Children’s Program, WV DHHR

Second Row: Shelly Baston, RN, West Virginia Bureau for Medical Services; Jeri L. Whitten, Department of Pediatrics, WVU-Charleston Division, Executive Director, WV Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics

Front Row: First Lady Gayle Manchin

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