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Campaign to Improve Maternal and Child Health Performance in NJ

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New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy launched Nurture NJ, a new statewide awareness campaign that focuses on improving the health of mothers, children and families. The campaign launch on Jan. 23, which is Maternal Health Awareness Day.

The campaign is committed to reducing infant and maternal mortality and morbidity while ensuring equitable care among women and children of all races and ethnicities to improve overall maternal and child health. "Despite being the richest and most powerful nation in the world, we continue to struggle with ensuring our mothers and infants have an equal shot at a healthy life," U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) said in a news release. "That's a tremendous problem, particularly in New Jersey." The state ranks 47th nationally with a mortality rate of 37 deaths per every 100,000 live births, according to the New Jersey Department of Health.

"This is unacceptable and inexcusable for a country - and a state - with advanced healthcare and medical services," New Jersey State Sen. Joe Vitale (D-Middlesex) said in the release. "Too many women have died during and after childbirth because of preventable and treatable conditions."

The Nurture NJ program will involve collaboration between various state departments and agencies to improve maternal and child health. In addition, the efforts will include:

  • An annual Black Maternal and Infant Health Leadership Summit
  • First Lady Murphy's annual Family Festival series events, which are hosted in cities with high rates of black infant and maternal mortality
  • A social media awareness campaign
  • Connecting families who care for children with state, county and local resources

"Eliminating disparities in maternal health includes making sure women have access to the health and social services they need to live healthy lives," New Jersey Department of Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson said in the release.

Maternal and child health program garner support

One of Nurture NJ's goals is to reduce unnecessary Caesarean section births. The program has gained support from Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth, among others. The medical center has a 22.7% C-section rate for first-time mothers, which is below the statewide average of 29.3%. Trinitas said the low C-section rates are due in part to having in-house nurse midwives available around the clock, in a press release.

"Under the nurse midwifery model of care, the certified nurse midwife will stay with and encourage the mother at bedside through the entire labor and birth experience," Trinitas Vice President of Patient Care Services and CNO Mary McTigue, RN, said in the release.

Preventing first-time C-section births, according to McTigue, decreases the risk of maternal morbidity for the first and future deliveries. Nurture NJ also is focusing on reducing early elective deliveries, which take place in less than 39 weeks of pregnancy without a medical reason for early delivery. The Leapfrog Group, which grades healthcare programs and services, recommends an early elective delivery rate of below 5% of all deliveries. Trinitas has a rate of 1.9% for early elective deliveries.

"The last few weeks of pregnancy are as important as any other phase," McTigue said. "Unless there's a medical reason, deliveries that are induced prior to 39 weeks can put the baby at a higher risk for a range of health and development issues."

Murphy said the maternal and child health campaign will include $38 million in federal child care grants, statewide symposiums and community-based initiatives to improve services and access to prenatal care. "We have been working every angle of maternal and infant health to make sure that we are a stronger, fairer and healthier New Jersey," she said. "I am proud ... to launch Nurture NJ so that we can work collaboratively to improve the health and safety of all New Jersey's women and children."

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