HEALTH

Women’s Health Symposium focuses on infant mortality among women of color

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

Newark Resident Yadira Varahona was at the fourth annual Women’s Health Symposium because she’s interested in hearing about prenatal care. Through a translator, she said that she had a miscarriage in March and that losing the baby was very painful.

The theme of the symposium is stolen moments, highlighting high infant mortality rates among women of color.

Earlier this year, first lady Tammy Murphy announced her new statewide campaign, Nurture New Jersey, to reduce maternal deaths. The Garden State ranks 45th in the country in maternal deaths and nearly half are African American mothers.

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“For people who are minority and people who are women of color, you’ll find that they are living in certain conditions which truly make it stressful on the body. You’re living in a situation where, if you are working, you get less pay than other people. If you’re living in a home, it’s not as good as somebody else. And if you are living in a community, you have to go further to find food and to find vegetables. So these are stressful indicators that does terrible things to the body,” said Dr. Pamela Clarke, CEO and president of Newark Community Health Center.

She says you need to have a healthy body to deliver healthy babies.

“For the woman to still be strong, still be of good courage, and still continue to push hard, but at the same time ensure that she’s connecting with a provider, with an OBGYN, with a family physician so they can take care of their bodies,” said Clarke.

New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal says the health care system has to go out into the community.

“We put in $4.7 million to fund community health workers, the vast majority of whom are women of color themselves from these communities, to go into communities, work with federally qualified health centers, to refer them into prenatal care if they are pregnant, to refer them into family planning services if they’re thinking about being pregnant,” Elnahal said.

The event is hosted by Newark Community Health Center, providing primary care service to Essex County residents regardless of a person’s ability to pay.

“You have to give sisters modalities to deal with the stressors in their life. While we work on getting rid of them, we have to give them tools and the ability to deal with them,” said Sen. Nia Gill.

The commissioner says his department is also working to tackle disparities in women’s health care by reducing implicit bias.

“An important example is, a lot of people miss heart attacks in women because they assume that it’s an anxiety or mental health issue when a lot of their symptoms often manifest themselves as stress, sweating, etc.,” said Elnahal. “Asking our hospital CEOs to make it a strategic priority to reduce implicit bias, that is what’s finally going to start to close these glaring disparities that we see in health care outcomes.”

And in turn decrease the number of women and babies lost to health complications.