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CMMI Announces Strong Start for Mothers and Newborns Initiative

February 10, 2012—The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Feb. 8 announced the Strong Start initiative, a program aimed at improving the care of mothers and newborns through reducing the risk of significant complications and long-term health problems for both expectant women and infants. 

The initiative is comprised of two parts: a public-private partnership, building on the work of Partnership for Patients [see Washington Highlights, April 15, 2011], to reduce early elective deliveries prior to 39 weeks and a funding opportunity through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) for testing new approaches to pre-natal care.  Organizations interested in the funding opportunity must submit non-binding Letters of Intent (LOI) by March 21, 2012, applications are due June 13, 2012, and the anticipated award date is September 10, 2012.

CMMI will award up to $43 million in grants to providers, states, managed care plans, and convener organizations to reduce the frequency of premature births—medically defined as less than 37 weeks of gestation—among pregnant Medicaid beneficiaries at-risk for preterm births.  The initiative will test three evidence-based approaches to the delivery of enhanced prenatal care and aims to understand better how behavioral and psychosocial factors may contribute to poor birth outcomes.  The three approaches to be tested are:    

  • Enhanced prenatal care through centering/group visits;

  • Enhanced prenatal care at birth centers; and

  • Enhanced prenatal care a maternity care homes.

The initiative will last four years.  Awardees will be expected to provide CMMI with monthly metrics, including information on gestational age at delivery, birth weight, and use of neonatal intensive care units.  Awardees also will submit reports on operations, utilization, and outcomes, as well as detailing specific uses of the grant funds and an assessment of overall project implementation.

Through the Partnership for Patients, HHS will conduct the other component of the Strong Start Initiative: a public-private partnership and awareness campaign to spread the adoption of best practices that can reduce the rate of early elective deliveries prior to 39 weeks for all populations.  HHS will employ three strategies:

  • Implementing a quality improvement platform through Partnership for Patients to share best practices, provide technical assistance to hospitals in implementing and adapting the practices and report data;

  • Creating support for change with a broad-based campaign to engage providers, patients, and the public, working with organization such as the March of Dimes and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG); and

  • Supporting efforts to collect performance data, measure success, promote transparency, and continuous improvement.


Jane Eilbacher
Policy and Regulatory Specialist
Telephone: 202-828-0896


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Jason Kleinman
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Telephone: 202-903-0806