Many employers strive to support pregnant workers, yet the rate of premature births and maternal deaths is on the rise and the infant-mortality rate in the United States is among the highest in the world.
This has led the March of Dimes to revamp a workplace wellness program aimed at supporting mothers during and after pregnancy.
Healthy Babies, Healthy Business is an online platform that provides information on various stages of pregnancy or preconception, and postpartum care, through classes, webinars, articles, videos, games, challenges and other tools. Initially launched in 2007, the nonprofit organization that works to improve the health of mothers and babies added interactive learning features to the platform, but another impetus behind the re-launch was to help women at a time when pregnancy discrimination is increasing and infant mortality remains high.
“Our country is in a crisis around child birth,” said Darlene Slaughter, vice president and chief people officer at the March of Dimes, which advocates for the health of mothers and babies. “Society is taking away support systems for families. How do you stay relevant in a world where all this going on? Babies need to be born healthy and the March of Dimes in a good position to help.”
One in 10 babies in the United States are born prematurely each year at less than 37 weeks’ gestation, which affects survival and quality of life, according to 2017 study co-authored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. While most are born healthy, a small percentage of premature infants require extraordinary and exorbitant medical care, which is costing employer-sponsored health plans billions each year, the study found.
Last year, the rate of premature births rose to nearly 10 percent from 9.8 percent, reflecting a steady increase over a three-year period, according to the March of Dimes 2018 Premature Birth Report Card.
“Take those costs and add to it the cost of time away from work and it’s a very costly problem for employers,” Slaughter said.