Today, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, in partnership with LAMMICO, the Louisiana Hospital Association and the March of Dimes, brought together perinatal quality experts from across the country for the first Louisiana Perinatal Care Improvement Summit. 

Nearly 200 people, including national and local experts, Louisiana hospital leadership and health care providers joined LDH Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein and other LDH leadership in a day-long discussion about improving health outcomes for Louisiana's mothers and babies. The summit was part of the Department's Birth Outcomes Initiative, which seeks to reduce the rates of premature births and infant mortality in Louisiana.

LDH Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein said, "Louisiana is proud to be a leader with this initiative that targets improved health outcomes from the very beginning. That it has already garnered national attention is telling of the remarkable efforts of our partners, as well as our state's hospitals, providers and the pregnant women themselves." 

The National Center for Health Statistics ranks Louisiana 49th in infant mortality, preterm birth and in the percentage of low and very low birth weight babies. Additionally, Louisiana earned a failing grade on the 2010 March of Dimes Prematurity Report Card, and at 38 percent, has the second highest C-section rate in the country.

Compounding these poor health outcomes is the financial burden associated with high labor and delivery costs. According to the March of Dimes, the average cost for premature infants in Louisiana is $33,000 compared to the national average of $4,000 for full-term newborns.

Frankie Robertson, March of Dimes State Director said, "The mission of the March of Dimes is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. The Department of Health Birth Outcomes Initiative has worked diligently to make great strides to improve the lives of women and infants in our state and the March of Dimes has been a proud partner since its inception. We would like to thank Secretary Greenstein for his leadership and for making the health of moms and babies a top priority. We are proud to work with the stakeholders and hospitals who are taking a proactive role in ending elective deliveries prior to 39 weeks; and with Dr. Rebekah Gee and her team guiding the Birth Outcomes Project.  Our state is making great strides and we look forward to continuing to partner aggressively with all involved in these efforts."

The 39 Week Initiative is an integral part of the Department's mission to improve Louisiana's birth outcomes. With support from the Louisiana State Medical Society, the Louisiana Hospital Association, and the Louisiana Chapter of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), LDH encouraged Louisiana's birthing hospitals to implement policies that end non-medically indicated deliveries prior to 39 weeks gestation. To date, 41 have.

Babies who are born fully developed, at 39 or more weeks, have the best chance at successful early beginnings that lead to healthy futures," said Dr. Rebekah Gee, Director of the Birth Outcomes Initiative. "We are so proud that starting January 2012, 84 percent of the births in this state will be in hospitals that have pledged to end deliveries before 39 weeks that have no medical reason. Our hospitals, physicians and partners have made this change possible by their dedication to providing the best medical care for women and babies."

The two hospitals that developed and implemented 39 Week policies prior to the department launching the statewide initiative have already seen the benefits. From 2007 to 2010, East Jefferson General Hospital reduced the number of elective inductions prior to 39 weeks from 503 to 16. Since implementing the initiative at Woman's Hospital in September 2007, neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU) admissions dropped 20 percent.

John Matessino, Louisiana Hospital Association President and CEO, "The LHA and its member hospitals are dedicated to the health of Louisiana's infants and mothers. We look forward to our partnership with Dr. Gee and Secretary Greenstein in supporting and participating in the Birth Outcomes Initiative. A successful, single focused partnership will help ensure the best outcomes for our newborns, their mothers, and Louisiana."

In addition to contributing to the summit's success, LAMMICO, a Louisiana medical mutual insurance company, partnered with LDH to offer a new online CME course, created specifically for Louisiana physicians, hospitals and staff, at no cost.   

Thomas H. Grimstad, M.D., LAMMICO's President and Chief Executive Officer, said, "LAMMICO is pleased to partner with the LDH on this important conference in New Orleans, to bring this initiative to a wide audience. Our CME video - 'Reducing Elective Deliveries Before 39 Weeks' - is a valuable tool to help educate physicians across Louisiana who are dedicating themselves to improve the health of mothers and their babies."

Additionally, LDH, as part of the Birth Outcomes Initiative, has provided 15 of the largest birthing hospitals in Louisiana tools to improve of their perinatal care through membership to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI). On Monday, Oct. 17, IHI held the Louisiana Perinatal Cohort Conference for the hospitals participating in the collaborative.

Sue Gullo, Director of IHI Perinatal Improvement Community, said, "IHI's partnership with 15 Louisiana Hospitals will focus on supporting hospitals to make sustainable long term change by using quality improvement techniques that result in local solutions. Bringing together a multidisciplinary team at the local level and the sharing of knowledge across multiple organizations will not only decrease the elective delivery of early term infants, it will also improve the safety and quality of care that all mothers and babies receive in these committed organizations."

To learn more about the Department's Birth Outcomes Initiative, visit

The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's blog, Twitter account and Facebook.