One of the most successful health efforts in the state now has the full attention of one of the top administrators in the state.
Melanie “BZ” Giese has been named director of the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ Birth Outcomes Initiative. Tony Keck, director of DHHS, announced the move on Thursday at the second annual symposium on the birth initiative.
Giese isn’t new to the effort. As chief of the DHHS Bureau of Health Services, she has been integral in the initiative for the past two years. But now, she now can concentrate more time on the birth outcomes initiative.
“It’s getting way too big for her to handle it just part-time,” Keck said. “It started out narrow, and it’s getting big, and she’s the one who has shepherded this from infancy.”
The initiative team also includes the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, the S.C. Hospital Association and the March of Dimes. It began with encouragement to delay non-emergency births until 39 weeks of pregnancy, when newborns are more likely to be healthy and avoid neonatal intensive care units.
Other important steps have involved providing a progesterone medicine to women at-risk of problem pregnancies and encouraging hospitals to take steps to be certified Baby Friendly. So far, four hospitals in the state have met the Baby Friendly standards – Georgetown Memorial in Georgetown, Waccamaw Community in Murrells Inlet, Roper St. Francis in Mount Pleasant and MUSC.
All hospitals in the state agreed to avoid non-medical births before 39 weeks, prodded in part by the DHHS plan to stop paying for those births. That effort alone saved the state DHHS $6 million in three months this year, according to a recent report. The money is saved because the babies are healthier.
Keck said when he was at a recent national meeting of health leaders, South Carolina’s birth outcomes initiative was a hot topic. “Everybody was saying tell us more about what you are doing down there,” he said.