For more information, contact:

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Mary R. Thompson – (423) 535-7694

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Sheila Champlin – (901) 448-4957

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The UT Health Science Center and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee have extended their collaboration on The Blues Project, a clinic- and home-based social intervention program, to positively affect health outcomes for at-risk mothers and their babies. Open enrollment begins for Phase II of The Blues Project in mid-August. The initiative is designed to help improve maternal, fetal and pediatric outcomes in Memphis through education, employment and removing social barriers linked to adverse child health outcomes. The project is beginning the third year of a four-year pilot.

Memphis has the highest infant mortality rate among the nation’s 60 largest cities. The U.S. infant mortality rate is 7.1 babies per 1,000 live births; however, that number is an alarming 17.4 babies per 1,000 live births among African-Americans who reside in Memphis. The majority of participants in The Blues Project have been African-American women (96.17 percent) under the age of 35 who were single and unemployed upon enrollment in the study.

“Beginning in August, we plan to enroll up to 760 young women in the second phase of The Blues Project,” said Kimberly Lamar, PhD, co-principal investigator and study coordinator in the UT Health Science Center (UTHSC) Department of Preventive Medicine. “We expect to enroll more than 200 women at each of the three sites,” she stated. The three clinic locations for Phase II of The Blues Project are: Christ Community Health Services sites at 3362 S. Third Street and at 3124 N. Thomas in Frayser, and the Memphis Health Center at 360 E. H. Crump Boulevard. The study is administered by UTHSC and UT Medical Group Inc. (UTMG)

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee funded Phase I of the project, May 2004 through December 2006, through corporate contributions with $1.7 million over two years. Phase II will be funded by the company’s Tennessee Health Foundation (THF) with $681,000 over three years. In addition to the financial support, BlueCross will strive to increase awareness of the infant mortality crisis in Memphis and help educate the community on what can be done to positively affect the lives of these at-risk children and their young mothers.

Marion Hare, MD, a UTMG pediatrician and associate professor in Pediatrics at UTHSC, is also the principal investigator on the study. In addition, each clinic site is staffed by an interdisciplinary team of health care professionals -- a registered nurse, a social worker and a community relations representative.

Results through the first two years of the pilot are positive. Highlights include early onset of prenatal care; reductions in preterm deliveries; reductions in sexually transmitted diseases and substance abuse in mothers; reductions in delivery complications and length of hospital stay; and improved social outcomes regarding education, employment and development of social support systems.

“Through our intervention, consisting of prenatal and postnatal education, the provision of social support, and linkages to resources and services within the community, we know we can achieve our ultimate goal -- to lower the incidence of premature birth and low birth weight in young, African-American women,” said Dr. Lamar.

About UT Health Science Center

As the flagship statewide academic health system, the UT Health Science Center is focused on a four-tier mission of education, research, clinical care and public service, all in support of a single goal: to improve the health of Tennesseans. Offering a broad range of postgraduate training opportunities, the main campus, which includes six colleges, is located in Memphis. UTHSC has additional College of Medicine campus locations in Knoxville and Chattanooga. For more information, visit www.utmem.edu. UT Medical Group is the private practice arm of the UTHSC faculty. As a not-for-profit, non-tax-supported group practice, UTMG is dedicated to quality patient care, medical education and medical research. For more information, visit www.utmedicalgroup.com.

About Tennessee Health Foundation, Inc.

The BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation, Inc. was established in December 2003 as a 501(c)(3) foundation organized to promote the philanthropic mission of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee by awarding grants focused on high impact initiatives across the state, which promote healthy lifestyle choices and help control health care costs for all Tennessee residents. THF, working with civic and economic partners, is dedicated to the support of research, innovative programs and creative approaches to improve the health and quality of life of Tennesseans for generations to come.