$1 Million in Grant Funding Available for Programs to Improve Maternal and Child Health

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CareFirst Targets Northern Virginia for Community-Based Health Initiatives

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield

We've made incredible strides in Virginia in reducing infant mortality rates to historic lows -- but there's more work to be done to improve the health of expecting mothers and ensure our children have the best start in life

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield (CareFirst), has announced the availability of $1 million in grant funding for programs aimed at improving maternal and child health in northern Virginia. Grant proposals must be submitted to CareFirst by September 18. CareFirst anticipates that grant determinations will be made before the end of 2009.

"We've made incredible strides in Virginia in reducing infant mortality rates to historic lows -- but there's more work to be done to improve the health of expecting mothers and ensure our children have the best start in life," said Governor Timothy M. Kaine. "By making private resources available, CareFirst is setting a wonderful example for other corporate leaders and helping build on the progress made by publicly-funded initiatives in communities across the Commonwealth."

CareFirst is making the funds available as part of its efforts to address health care disparities throughout the region and support Governor Timothy M. Kaine's major efforts to reduce the Commonwealth's infant mortality rate. In Virginia, 839 babies died before age 1, in 2007, according state records. Infant mortality is measured as the number of deaths per 1,000 live births. In 2008, Virginia's infant mortality rate was 6.7 deaths per 1,000 live births, about average among all states nationwide. The State of Washington has the lowest infant mortality rate, at 4.68. The District of Columbia has the highest, 11.26.

"Infant mortality rates are a key indicator of a community's overall health," said Chet Burrell, CareFirst President and CEO. "Reversing the trend of infant mortality in Northern Virginia will take system-wide efforts to eliminate the social and economic barriers that can hinder a mother's access to care."

CareFirst has issued a request for proposals from organizations serving CareFirst's Northern Virginia service area (the cities of Alexandria and Fairfax, the town of Vienna, Arlington County and the areas of Fairfax and Prince William Counties east of Route 123). Grants are available for one or more programs that show promise to significantly improve maternal and infant health in the region. Ideal projects will be sustainable over time with potential for expansion and/or replication in surrounding communities. For a complete description of the program and details on the application process, please visit http://www.carefirstcommitment.com/attachments/CFRFPMaternalChildHealth.pdf.

"Great strides have been made in reducing the rate of infant mortality in Virginia to its lowest rate in state history, but more work is needed," said Karen Remley, M.D., Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Health. "A key part of continuing this success is keeping with the Governor's proactive involvement at the community level, teaming both public and private sector resources to educate mothers and caregivers on prenatal health and infant care."

CareFirst will accept proposals aimed at improving maternal and infant health through three key stages, including pre-pregnancy, during pregnancy and post-pregnancy. For example, during the pre-pregnancy stage, CareFirst will consider programs that lead to reduced substance abuse, domestic violence, and sexually transmitted diseases. During pregnancy, increasing access to regular prenatal care is essential. Post-pregnancy, mothers and caregivers need to be informed on proper sleeping positions for infants and the health benefits of breast-feeding, among other issues.

CareFirst is working in partnership with an advisory panel of local experts on maternal and infant health and public policy leaders. In addition to CareFirst representatives, members of the advisory panel that will review proposals for grant funding include:

  • Sallie Eissler, R.N., M.S.N., C.P.N.P., Director of Partnership Development for Family Health Connection at Potomac Hospital
  • Rebecca Mendoza, M.A., Director of the Maternal and Child Health Division of the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services
  • Karen Remley, M.D., Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Health
  • Anne Rieger, Assistant Vice President of INOVA Community Health
  • Shirley Travis, M.D., Dean of the College of Health and Human Services at George Mason University

In its 72nd year of service, CareFirst, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, is a not-for-profit health care company which, through its affiliates and subsidiaries, offers a comprehensive portfolio of health insurance products and administrative services to nearly 3.4 million individuals and groups in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia. Through its CareFirst Commitment initiative and other public mission activities, CareFirst supports efforts to increase the accessibility, affordability, safety and quality of health care throughout its market areas. To learn more about CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, visit our Web site at: http://www.carefirst.com .

Contact:
Kevin Kane
1-800-914-NEWS (6397)

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