AcademyHealth’s Evidence-Informed State Health Policy Institute and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, serving as a data coordinating center, in collaboration with five HHS Region 4 states and with funding from the CDC Foundation, recently published timely findings on state level trends and cross-state differences in prenatal syphilis screening rates among Medicaid beneficiaries in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine here. The study, titled the STI Testing among Medicaid Patients (STAMP) Project, leverages a distributed research network (DRN) with six Southern State-University Partnership Learning Network (SUPLN) and Medicaid Outcomes Distributed Research Network (MODRN) partnerships between state Medicaid agency partners and university researchers in Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
Given alarming increasing rates of syphilis among pregnant women and infants in recent years, particularly in the U.S. South, the study is especially opportune. “Our study uses recent data from states in a targeted region of the country where syphilis screening is a critical part of the public health system. Policymakers and clinicians need this information now,” says Dr. Paul Lanier, Ph.D., MSW, the project data coordinating center lead.
The study finds that syphilis screening rates among Medicaid enrollees in the South differ by a myriad of factors, such as state of residence, timing of enrollment, and trimester of screening. In particular, the findings highlight the importance of enrollment in Medicaid in early pregnancy. “These results show areas of improvement and identify target populations for better screening outreach… State policymakers should take note of these results and consider ways the Medicaid program can better incentivize and monitor prenatal syphilis screening,” says Lanier of the results.
The results are already proving useful in South Carolina, where the South Carolina Birth Outcomes Initiative (SCBOI) is being led by over 100 stakeholders to improve health outcomes for all moms and babies. A major emphasis of the SCBOI is improving the screening, treatment, and the reporting of sexually transmitted infections among pregnant women. Dr. Ana Lopez – De Fede, Ph.D., MA, MEd, member of the STAMP project team and leader of the SCBOI Data Workgroup charged with quantifying progress towards the initiative’s goals, reflects that “Participation in the CDC STI STAMP research added insight and perspective on the need for action. The research undertaking allows for examining the policy and clinical drivers associated with the outcomes. In essence, the study findings highlighted the need to establish targeted goals to increase the timeliness of STI screenings for all pregnant women in South Carolina.”
In addition, the STAMP Project group conducted a second analysis on the rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis testing among Medicaid beneficiaries who are taking PrEP in the same six Southern states. Watch this space to read the findings from the second analysis.