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The United States is one of the wealthiest developed nations in the world. Yet, it has among the highest rates of maternal mortality compared to other developed countries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 700 women in the U.S. die from pregnancy-related complications every year. Sixty percent of those deaths are preventable.
New Jersey has the fourth highest maternal mortality rate in the nation. Black women and birthing people are at a greater risk and face heightened, life-threatening complications and death both during pregnancy and after giving birth. In 2021, First Lady Tammy Murphy announced an alarming statistic: Black mothers in New Jersey are 7 times more likely to experience pregnancy-related death compared to their white counterparts (Source: Nurture New Jersey Maternal and Infant Health Strategic Plan). Black babies are three times more likely to die before their first birthday (New Jersey Department of Health’s State Health Assessment Data/NJSHAD).
Nurture New Jersey, an initiative led by Tammy Murphy, aims to make New Jersey the safest place to give birth and rear a child. The Prematurity Prevention Initiative, a program of Family Health Initiatives, supports Gov. Phil Murphy’s 2023 budget allocation for Nurture New Jersey, which would expand maternal and child health services to improve birth and pregnancy outcomes across the state, with a sharpened focused on maternal mortality, infant mortality, prematurity, pregnancy and postpartum complications. Maternal and infant morbidity and mortality are attributed to various health and environmental conditions and comorbidities. The increased risk of pregnancy-related death among Black birthing people spans income, economic status and education levels (Source: National Partnership). The Nurture New Jersey Maternal and Infant Health Strategic Plan increases awareness of these concerns by developing mechanisms to address these issues and the impacts of systemic racism on care. Action areas include implementing implicit bias awareness strategies, building a racial equity infrastructure, community support and promoting health and racial equity across the state.
Nurture New Jersey has drawn awareness to issues that directly impact birthing people and families across the state. The campaign provides increased transportation access to families for health care and wellness visits, offers education and information campaigns at family festivals and engages both providers and the public via social media.
Right now, the Prematurity Prevention Initiative is working in collaboration with the NAACP Atlantic City Black Infant and Maternal Mortality Task Force to reduce the number of babies born too soon among Black birthing people in Atlantic City, confront injustices among black birthing people, improve the way birthing people receive care and address biases among health care providers.
Additional funding for Nurture New Jersey through increased budgetary appropriations will build on accomplishments from previous years and result in life-saving health outcomes for high-risk birthing individuals. Priority items outlined in the governor’s budget proposal include the expansion of home visitation programs, a stillbirth prevention campaign, increased funding for midwifery education, and strengthening resources to referral agencies. This holistic strategy will strengthen the existing network of health care providers and maternal health professionals and enhance the overall health of New Jersey’s birthing people, children and families. The Prematurity Prevention Initiative aligns with the mission, purpose, and values of Nurture New Jersey to improve the health of mothers and families. The proposed funding that will support these critical strategies will directly advance maternal health care initiatives and improve health-related outcomes that foster a sustainable and transformative impact for generations to come. Christine Ivery, of Philadelphia, is project director for Prematurity Prevention Initiative of Family Health Initiatives. Family Health Initiatives is supported by funding from the New Jersey Department of Health a