March of Dimes and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield are partnering up to sponsor an initiative called “Baby & Me: Tobacco Free,” an incentive-driven program aiming to help pregnant women quit smoking before, during and after pregnancy.
The program offers $25 vouchers for diapers each month for up to a year to any mother who quits smoking prior to delivery and remains smoke free postpartum.
Trina Ragain, the State Director of Program Services for the Missouri Chapter of the march of Dimes, explained how smoking during pregnancy can affect the health of a newborn child.
“It is the most preventable cause of pre-term births and low birth-weight babies,” she explained. “We know that prematurity is a huge risk for infant mortality which is death within the first year of life. By targeting women who are smoking, we are trying to reduce the chance that babies are being born pre-term or being born low birth-weight, thus increasing their chances of being healthy at birth.”
According to a press release from the March of Dimes, 17.5% of women in Missouri smoke during pregnancy, more than double the national average of 8.5%.
The same press release noted that “Missouri’s statistics for infant mortality are also significantly higher than the national average, partly due to the high percentage of Missouri women who smoke during pregnancy.”
Deborah Wiethop, the Missouri PR director for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, said offering incentives for quitting helps keep women from going back to cigarettes.
“Women will quit smoking when their pregnant, but often will start up again after the baby is born” she said. “We have them come in once a month and there’s a program where (they) can blow into a little tube to test if (they) have nicotine in (their) system. If (they) have not smoked then (they) can get a $25 incentive for diapers. It’s also a way to keep babies from being exposed to secondhand smoke.”
Currently, mothers can redeem the diaper vouchers at any CVS Pharmacy or Wal-Mart locations.
The program is offered at 6 locations in Mid-Missouri.