High maternal mortality rates lead calls for change in New Jersey, US

on 16 September 2020

The state of New Jersey has one of the highest mortality rates in the United States (US), prompting the First Lady of the state to become involved in improving maternity care.

According to New Jersey first lady Tammy Murphy, an average of 47 women die for every 100,000 live births in the state, compared to the average of 20 nationally.

Tammy Murphy is a member of the Maternity Mortality Review Committee, an expert panel which is reviewing maternity services and all maternal deaths in the state.

Speaking to New Jersey 101.5, she said: “A black baby in New Jersey is three times more likely than a white baby to die before his or her first birthday, and recent data shows that black women are seven times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy related deaths.

“It could be leading up to birth, it could be during delivery or it could be postpartum.

“It’s lack of quality affordable childcare, it’s inadequate housing, lack of providers who accept Medicaid, food deserts, lack of transportation.

“For some mothers, it’s literally a question of whether they’re able to access. It’s whether a mother can find a provider that takes Medicaid, or find a bus that will take her to that very doctor.

“Identifying the opportunity for improving outcomes are really only the first steps necessary to translate lessons learned into specific programs[sic] and initiatives.”

The Maternity Mortality Review committee are working on developing a strategy with “specific steps that we can take as a state to reduce our maternal mortality rate by 50% over five years, and ensure equity in birth outcomes.”

Despite having one of the highest mortality rates in the country, a report shows that some aspects of maternity care has improved in New Jersey since 2016 such as caesarean rates dropping from 35.7% to 34.4%.