Freeman News

March of Dimes recognizes Freeman Health System for helping babies get a healthy start in life

October 06, 2014

Freeman Health System is one of 19 hospitals in Missouri recognized by the March of Dimes for having zero elective early inductions or Cesarean deliveries performed before the 39th week of pregnancy.

Freeman Health System is one of 19 hospitals in Missouri recognized by the March of Dimes for having zero elective early inductions or Cesarean deliveries performed before the 39th week of pregnancy.

The March of Dimes said this gives more babies a healthy start in life, noting that babies delivered before full term are at increased risk of serious health problems and death in their first year of life.

Freeman President and CEO Paula Baker said she is proud to see this recognition for the team of physicians, providers and maternity center staff at Freeman who saw this as an opportunity to improve care for babies born at the hospital. “This recognition validates what we already knew about the expert, compassionate staff we have here at Freeman,” Baker said. “They strive to adopt policies and processes that put our community and patients first at all times.”

Recent research by the March of Dimes, the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that the risk of death more than doubles for infants born at 37 weeks of pregnancy when compared to babies born at 40 weeks for all races and ethnicities. Babies born just a few weeks early also have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than full-term infants.

Freeman Director of Maternal and Child Services Jeanee' Kennedy said Freeman created a policy that mandated a hard stop on elective procedures before 39 weeks of gestation without medical reason. “Unless there is a medical reason why the baby needs to be delivered before 39 weeks, we will not allow the procedure to be scheduled,” she explained. “This policy, along with the cooperation of our providers and the hard work of our nursing staff, has allowed us to completely eliminate elective deliveries in our facility.”

“Our main goal in creating this culture is to improve patient safety in our facility,” Kennedy said. “We want to give our babies the best possible start. We not only changed a policy, but also worked to change the mindset of our community through education for our expectant parents. At the end of the day, mothers want their babies to be safe and healthy, and the culture we've put in place here at Freeman helps us accomplish that.”

According to State Director of Program Services, Advocacy and Government Affairs, March of Dimes Trish Ragain, “The last weeks of pregnancy are extremely important. Babies aren’t just putting on weight. They are undergoing important development of the brain, lungs and other vital organs. The March of Dimes commends Freeman Health System for being a champion for babies with their quality improvement effort.”

A two-year partnership between the March of Dimes Missouri Chapter and the Missouri Hospital Association (MHA) is achieving its goal of significantly reducing early elective deliveries by the end of 2014. Of the 46 participating birthing hospitals in Missouri, 78 percent report a rate of 5 percent or less, according to Ragain. Additionally, of the 46 hospitals, 87 percent now have a “hard stop” policy in place with establishes strict medical guidelines for when a physician may schedule an early delivery. Only 35 percent had such a policy in place before the MHA/March of Dimes collaboration began.

“In the best interests of the health of mothers and infants, Missouri’s hospitals have been working to reduce early elective deliveries,” said MHA President and CEO Herb Kuhn. “This is one of the many quality improvement programs they are aggressively pursuing to achieve the triple aim for better care, better health and lower costs.”

About Freeman Health System
Locally owned and nationally recognized, Freeman Health System has earned a number of US News & World Report distinctions – Best Hospital in Southwest Missouri, #4 hospital in the state, and High Performing status in seven specialties. The health system includes Freeman Hospital West, Freeman Hospital East, Freeman Neosho Hospital, and Ozark Center – the area’s largest provider of behavioral health services – as well as two urgent care clinics, dozens of physician clinics and a variety of specialty services. A not-for-profit health system, Freeman provides cancer care, heart and vascular care, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopaedics, children’s services, and women’s services and has more than 300 physicians on staff. For more information, visit or or follow Freeman President and Chief Executive Officer Paula Baker at