New Jersey Unveils Nurture NJ Maternal and Infant Health Plan

By: Savannah Scarborough, Writer / Follow South Jersey Community Resources Intern

Photo: Jon Bradley | Follow South Jersey

TRENTON, N.J. — On Monday, New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy and national public health expert Dr. Vijaya Hogan announced the Nurture NJ Maternal and Infant Health Plan, which will be funded by the Nicholas Foundation and the Community Health Acceleration Partnership.

There are extreme racial disparities in birth outcomes between African-American and white women all over the country, according to Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ). In New Jersey, African-American women are seven times more likely than white mothers to die from pregnancy-related complications. Additionally, African-American babies in New Jersey are three times more likely than white babies to die before their first birthday. The Nurture NJ Maternal and Infant Health Plan will work towards dissipating New Jersey’s excessive rates of maternal and infant mortality and deplete the racial disparities responsible for these deaths.

Ajanee McConnell, an African American woman studying at Montclair State University, is just one of the many women who has fallen victim to racial disparities within childbirth in America. After pregnancy, she lost a child due to being turned away during pre-labor and then rushed to the emergency room during labor.

“I experienced so much racial bias in facilities. Nurses would come into the room [and] not even speak with me,” McConnell said. “His name was Sincere. He ended up being three months early, and he was alive for three days before he passed. I share my story, so that other young Black mothers know that their voices deserve to be heard, and when you think something is wrong, don’t let anyone silence you.”

The plan’s strategy aims to make New Jersey the most secure, unbiased place in the nation to deliver and raise a baby and position New Jersey as a national leader in the fight for maternal health equity.

“The Nurture NJ strategic plan is designed to build a complete ecosystem that supports the health and well-being of mothers and infants,” said Dr. Vijaya Hogan, the lead author of the Nurture NJ plan and adjunct professor in the Department of Maternal and Child Health at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Public Health.. “This plan is about changing health outcomes through changing the way society treats women of color in all aspects of their lives.”

The Nurture NJ Maternal and Infant Health plan includes a year one playbook that outlines the actionable suggestions that can be induced into society promptly to take the first steps for systematic change. This plan also includes tools for stakeholder groups, business leaders, agencies, health and social service providers, and community groups. A team of 11 national consultants has already begun working with stakeholders to ensure the recommended action steps are effectively taking place.

The plan includes more than 70 specific guidance steps for maternal health stakeholders across all sectors to acknowledge and put into effect. The plan also aspires to reduce maternal mortality by 50 percent over the next five years and seeks to eliminate racial disparities in birth outcomes. This plan seeks to;

  • Ensure all women are healthy and have access to care before pregnancy
  • Build a safe, high-quality, equitable system of care for all women prenatally through postpartum care
  • Ensure supportive community environments during every other part of a women’s life so that the conditions and opportunities for health are always available

“This plan is not just a ‘quick fix’ – it’s a long-term strategy that will result in a systemic change needed to reach our goal of making New Jersey the safest and most equitable place in the nation to give birth and raise a baby,” New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver said in a release.

“The plan introduced today is a major step forward in our state’s ongoing efforts to improve the maternal health outcomes of New Jersey mothers. With input from experts, advocates, and the very families directly affected by this issue, the Nurture NJ Maternal and Infant Health Strategic Plan will undoubtedly lead to significant positive change on behalf of the mothers and newborns in our state,” Assembly members Shavonda Sumter, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, and Herb Conaway added in a release.

This article was produced by a Follow South Jersey news intern thanks to a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Jersey Health Initiatives program to create hyper-local news to meet the informational and health needs of the City of Bridgeton, N.J.