Tammy Murphy introduces Nurture NJ maternal and infant health plan

Program aims to eliminate racial disparities in state’s mortality rate

First lady Tammy Murphy and a national public health expert based in North Carolina, Vijaya Hogan, unveiled the Nurture NJ Maternal and Infant Health Plan — a strategy to reduce New Jersey’s high rates of maternal and infant mortality and eliminate the racial disparities responsible for these deaths.

The strategic plan is the latest element of the first lady’s Nurture NJ initiative, which aims to make New Jersey the safest and most equitable place in the nation to deliver and raise a baby.

Currently, Black mothers in the state are seven times more likely than white mothers to die from pregnancy-related complications. In addition, Black babies in New Jersey are three times more likely than white babies to die before their first birthdays. The Nurture NJ Maternal and Infant Health Strategic Plan includes over 70 specific, actionable recommendations for maternal health stakeholders across all sectors. Funded by the Nicholson Foundation and the Community Health Acceleration Partnership, the plan will position New Jersey as a national leader in the fight for maternal health equity.

The plan aims to reduce maternal mortality by 50% over five years and eliminate racial disparities in birth outcomes.

To do so, the plan seeks to:

  • Ensure all women are healthy and have access to care before pregnancy;
  • Build a safe, high-quality, equitable system of care for all women prenatally through postpartum care;
  • Ensure supportive community environments during every other part of a woman’s life, so that the conditions and opportunities for health are always available.

“Fully achieving the goals of Nurture NJ requires transformative change to a system that has historically and disproportionately failed Black women,” Murphy said. “The Nurture NJ Maternal and Infant Health Strategic Plan provides the blueprint for necessary collaboration, partnership and communication among government, private stakeholders, nonprofits and impacted communities and will ensure every New Jersey mother and baby gets off to a healthy start.”

Vijaya Hogan. (Univ. of North Carolina)

The Nurture NJ Maternal and Infant Health Strategic Plan is the culmination of over a year of in-person and virtual meetings with over 100 critical stakeholders, including national public health experts, New Jersey state departments and agencies, health systems, physicians, doulas, community organizations, and mothers and families. The team drew on extensive maternal health research and data to examine the structural barriers and systemic racism that contributes to the maternal and infant health crisis.

Hogan, an independent consultant and an adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina, said the plan is designed to build a complete ecosystem that supports the health and well-being of mothers and infants.

“The desire for transformative change was shared in every stakeholder discussion across New Jersey and the nation,” she said. “This plan is about changing health outcomes through changing the way society treats women of color in all aspects of their lives.”

To begin implementation, the report includes a detailed Year One Playbook outlining the immediate, actionable recommendations that lay the groundwork for systemic change. The plan also includes implementation tools for various stakeholder groups in New Jersey, including business leaders, state agencies, health and social service providers, and community groups. Stakeholders are invited to commit to achieving these goals and working together across sectors to create a better New Jersey for all mothers and babies. The team, which includes 11 national consultants, has already begun working with stakeholders to ensure the feasibility of implementing the recommended action steps.

To learn more about Nurture NJ, visit NurtureNJ.nj.gov.