Initiative helps address maternal health crisis by informing expectant moms about the potential benefits of low-dose aspirin to prevent preeclampsia
WOONSOCKET, R.I. — To help address the unprecedented maternal health crisis affecting American women and support prenatal and postpartum care, Aetna, a CVS Health (NYSE: CVS) company, has launched a new initiative as part of the Aetna Maternity Program.
"Over the past two decades we've seen a steady rise in pregnancy-related deaths, and significant racial and ethnic disparities persist that can lead to poor maternal outcomes," said Troy Brennan, M.D., CVS Health Chief Medical Officer. "The main contributors to this crisis reflect deep-rooted issues within our health care system that we must address, including limited access to care."
Building on a long-standing commitment to connect expectant moms with care that meets their unique needs, this first-of-its-kind initiative is focused specifically on preventing preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death that is characterized by new-onset hypertension during pregnancy. Preeclampsia can lead to serious maternal complications, including stroke, seizure and organ failure and accounts for 15 percent of all preterm births in the U.S. Rates of the condition have increased 25 percent in the last ten years alone.
According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. is one of the only high-income countries where deaths related to pregnancy or childbirth are on the rise. Black women are also being disproportionately affected, with rates of severe maternal morbidity and mortality two to three times that of white women.
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented new challenges, as many expectant moms may be attending fewer in-person prenatal care visits. In turn, they may increase their risk of developing complications that go undetected.
Recent recommendations by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and multiple medical professional societies recommend low-dose aspirin for the prevention of preeclampsia for women at high risk for developing the condition. By leveraging data analytics, the Aetna Maternity Program identifies pregnant women with risk factors for developing the condition for individualized outreach and education. Women at high risk are sent a personalized prenatal care kit that contains educational materials along with an 81-mg bottle of low-dose aspirin, a low-cost intervention that may reduce the risk for developing the condition. Members receive an appointment reminder card encouraging them to speak with their pregnancy care provider about the potential benefits of low-dose aspirin and whether it is right for them. All pregnant members are also mailed information developed by the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine on preeclampsia and prevention steps.
"This is an innovative, simple way to promote safer pregnancies by enhancing awareness about an important cause of maternal and infant harm," said Daniel Knecht, M.D., Vice President of Clinical Product for CVS Health. "This initiative is also designed to help close gaps in knowledge by supporting members in conversations with their providers."
Low-dose aspirin as a preventive therapy
While there is no cure for preeclampsia, taking one low-dose aspirin a day has been shown to reduce the risk of the condition and some of its complications. Pregnant women with risk factors such as hypertension, Type 1 or 2 diabetes, obesity, and a history of preeclampsia benefit from the use of prenatal aspirin, according to the USPSTF. When this therapy was started in the first trimester in at-risk women, it reduced the incidence of hypertension by 24% and preterm birth by 14%.
To further support women's health, Aetna is exploring additional ways to partner with network physicians and provide this latest guidance.
"CVS Health has delivery channels that can bring critical information and resources such as low-dose aspirin right to members' doorsteps. This outreach is coupled with a care management program featuring highly trained and dedicated nurses to support the personalized needs of pregnant members," noted Joanne Armstrong, M.D., head of Women's Health for CVS Health and an OB/GYN.
For more information about the Aetna Maternity Program and the company's efforts to prevent preeclampsia, click here.
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