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Nemours, Highmark among group studying a possible decline in preterm births during pandemic

Nemours Children's Health System

Healthcare payers and providers in Delaware are part of a collaborative effort to find out if there is a link between the pandemic and a decrease in preterm births. Some research both in the US and overseas suggests there may have been fewer than normal preterm births over the past year. 

Nemours Children’s Health System and Highmark Delaware are working with other regional payers and providers to see if this is true locally, and, if so, why? 

Nemours neonatologist Dr. Jay Greenspan is among those leading the effort.

“Like any good research project, we’re not sure we’re going to get to gold, but we will find out something that’s going to be important,” said Greenspan. “And we’re going to find out something that’s going to help all of us, maybe beyond, improve the health of kids, and that’s all because of this incredible collaboration.”      

Greenspan says hypothetical causes for the drop in preterm births range from mask wearing and social distancing, stress reduction resulting from working from home or less prenatal care.

“Maybe we are doing too much intervention,” he said. “That would be amazing. So we think we’re doing the right thing. We think you need all this prenatal care. Maybe you need some and maybe you don’t need some. So OB’s were specifically saying ‘stay at home unless something is really coming up.’ That’s really a shift.”      

Highmark, BluePrints for the Community and Independence Blue Cross are providing $300,000 in grants to fund the research along with claims data.

The research team includes experts from Nemours, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), as well as Yale and Northwestern Universities.

Delaware has an above average rate of preterm births. The First State’s rate was 10.7 percent in 2019 compared to a national rate of 10.2 percent, according to a March of Dimes annual report. The report also says the preterm birth rate among Black women is 51% higher than the rate among all other women in Delaware.

The project is set to begin in late February and Greenspan says it should only take a couple months. 

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