RWJBarnabas Health, the largest, most comprehensive academic health care system in New Jersey, is committed to the health and well-being of women throughout pregnancy, delivery and the postpartum period. As part of that commitment, the system is once again recognizing Black Maternal Health Week (#BMHW23), April 11-17, to raise awareness for ensuring safe, respectful care for Black mothers.
“Across the U.S. and in the state of New Jersey, maternal morbidity and mortality continue to rise, but for Black women, the statistics are alarming. Black women are significantly more likely to die from a pregnancy-related complication than their white peers, which is unacceptable. Across RWJBarnabas Health, we are committed to bringing about change, fostering a community of support for Black mothers, and amplifying the call for birth equity,” said Suzanne Spernal, DNP, APN-BC, RNC-OB, Senior Vice President of Women’s Services, RWJBarnabas Health, and a leader in maternal health.
Delivering approximately a quarter of all hospital births in the state of New Jersey annually, RWJBarnabas Health is uniquely positioned to effect transformative change. At the root of addressing inequities in care is a focus across the system on addressing the social determinants of health, and providing resources, such as transportation, to reduce barriers to care that impact Black women disproportionately. Several specific initiatives have been developed to improve maternal health outcomes for Black women, including:
The RWJBarnabas Health OB Collaborative, which is an interdisciplinary leadership team committed to ending preventable maternal morbidity, mortality and promoting equity in maternity care. Via various initiatives and programs, the team aims to increase access to quality, equitable care, address social determinants of health, and empower women through shared decision-making;
Participation in TeamBirth NJ, an evidence-based, national model for better provider and patient communication, which is designed to enhance birthing experiences and improve outcomes;
Centering Pregnancy, an evidence-based, clinically-led group prenatal support program that brings together expectant parents with similar pregnancy due dates to support healthy pregnancies and babies;
Family planning clinics, which provide high quality and comprehensive family planning and preventative health services at low or no cost.
“It is critical to raise awareness for Black maternal health, not just during Black Maternal Health Week, but throughout the year. If we are going to improve outcomes, we must listen to Black women and meet their needs,” said Meika Neblett, MD, MS, Chief Medical, Quality and Academic Officer at Community Medical Center, an RWJBarnabas Health facility. “Additionally, we know that implicit bias plays a role in maternal health outcomes, but as clinicians, we can apply strategies to address this. The more we evaluate our personal biases and how they impact patient care, the more effectively we can reduce it.”
As part of RWJBarnabas Health’s support for Black Maternal Health Week 2023, several events are planned at facilities across the system over the coming week, including special resources and education available for staff on topics such as the importance of Doulas and the risk of hypertension during pregnancy and the post-partum period. Two tentpole webinars are planned for system clinicians: the first presented by Dr. Neblett on the topic of bias and how it can be a contributing factor in maternal health outcomes, and another presented by Michael Straker, M.D., FACOG, Director of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Clara Maass Medical Center, on the importance of early prenatal care for Black mothers and modifications to be considered for working mothers.