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Assembly Approves Maternal Health Bills that Address Disparities in Maternal Mortality Rates between African-American and White Women

As part of a statewide effort to address disparities in maternal mortality rates between African-American and white women, and to reverse the trend that ranks New Jersey 47th among the states in maternal mortality with 37.3 deaths per 100,000 live births, a maternal health package introduced last month was approved by the full Assembly Monday.

A common thread among the measures is a focus on African-American women and uncovering why they are at such higher risk of dying from pregnancy complications than white women. During 2011-2014, the CDC found alarming racial disparities in maternal infant mortality deaths nationwide: 12.4 deaths per 100,000 live births for white women compared to a staggering 40 deaths per 100,000 live births for black women. The measures look to evaluate the state’s current maternal educational efforts and to conduct surveys that can provide key insight as to women’s perceptions on these efforts.

The bills seek a collaborative effort between a broad of array of stakeholders–mothers, fathers, health professionals, medical educators and experts, legislators, health agencies, community advocates and others–to help women have a healthy pregnancy and safe delivery.

Comprehensive, resource driven and action oriented, the maternal health measures cover a wide array of issues and include:

A-4936 (Carter/Chaparro/Vainieri Huttle)
Establishes maternal healthcare pilot program to evaluate shared decision-making tool developed by Department of Health and used by hospitals providing maternity services, and by birthing centers
Approved by a vote of 80-0-0.

A-4938 (Tucker/Pinkin/Vainieri Huttle)
Requires Department of Health to Establish “My Life, My Plan” program to support women of childbearing age in developing reproductive life plan
Approved by a vote of 67-11-0.

A-4941 (Vainieri Huttle/Spearman/Jimenez)
Requires Commissioner of Health to Establish Maternity Care Public Awareness Campaign
Approved by a vote of 79-0-0.

A-5031 (Speight/McKnight/Timberlake)
Requires hospital emergency departments to ask person of childbearing age about recent pregnancy history
Approved by a vote of 79-0-0.

AR219 (Speight/Murphy/Timberlake)
Encourages Department of Health to develop a set of standards for respectful care at birth and to conduct a public outreach initiative.
Approved by a vote of 78-0-0.

AR226 (McKnight/Vainieri Huttle/Downey)
Urges Centers for Disease Control to adopt uniform data system to collect information on maternal mortality
Approved by a vote of 79-0-0

The measures now await further consideration by the legislature.