HEALTH

Two NJ cities join national effort to become safer childbirth cities

BY Joanna Gagis, Producer/Correspondent |

Despite a robust network of health care systems, New Jersey ranks 45th in the nation in maternal death, with black mothers five times more likely than white mothers to die, and black babies three times more likely to die before their first birthday. Last week, first lady Tammy Murphy moderated a panel discussion in Newark to bring attention to the issue.

On the panel were grantees and funders of Safer Childbirth Cities, a campaign that sees nine coalitions in nine cities across the country collaborating to reverse these trends; New Jersey is the only state with two cities in the group, Newark and Camden.

Murphy said that before the coalition was launched by maternal health initiative Merck for Mothers, there was only some communication between different organizations and most weren’t sharing best practices — hence why she welcomes the new campaign.

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Other panelists talked about better coordinating health care systems, using technology and data to catch high-risk patients before it’s too late, as well as implicit bias in care.

“For years and years, marginalized communities have not felt that trust. So we have to break that cycle and really start fresh,” said Aasta Mehta, women’s health policy advisor at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. “And so, whether that’s implicit bias training, which is good and it’s important that everybody does that — but then, going one step further and coming up with innovative ways to break those decades of mistrust.”

Murphy said her goal is to make New Jersey the safest place in the country to deliver a baby. The first lady closed the event by saying she’s working to ensure that the efforts started in the state will continue far beyond this administration.