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The March of Dimes and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Missouri are partnering to bring an innovative smoking cessation program to six Missouri counties.

Baby & Me: Tobacco Free is an incentive-based program designed to help hundreds of pregnant women quit smoking before, during, and after their pregnancy.

Approximately 17.5 percent of women in Missouri smoke during pregnancy. That is more than twice the national average, which is 8.5 percent. 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. The March of Dimes and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield hope the program will lower these rates and increase the overall health of newborns.

“Nicotine in cigarettes may cause a decrease in the oxygen available to the fetus and reduce the amount of blood in the fetal cardiovascular system,” said Jay Moore, M.D., senior clinical director for Anthem in Missouri. “Smoking during pregnancy is a major cause of premature, low-birth-weight babies, pregnancy complications, stillbirth and sudden infant death syndrome. This program is designed to educate women on the harm they are doing to their babies.”

According to Trina Ragain, state director of program services, advocacy and governmental affairs for the March of Dimes Missouri Chapter, “Of the 8,500 babies born each year in Missouri, approximately 750 are born prematurely. Through community programs such as Baby & Me, we’re hoping to see those preterm rates decline.”

Baby & Me: Tobacco Free rewards female smokers who quit prior to delivery and stay smoke free post-delivery by providing $25 in monthly diaper vouchers for each month smoke free, for up to one year postpartum. The mother can choose the brand or size of the diapers at local participating stores.

There are six Missouri health care facilities currently participating:

• Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital in Ste. Genevieve

• Fitzgibbon Hospital in Marshall

• Hannibal Regional Hospital in Hannibal

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• Madison County Health Dept. in Fredericktown

• Golden Valley Memorial Health Care in Clinton

• Saint Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau

Baby & Me initiatives in other states have logged a 60 percent quit rate for women enrolled in the program.

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