NJEDA takes steps to advance development of Maternal and Infant Health Innovation Center

NJEDA to Enter into Memorandum of Understanding with Kean University to Facilitate Community Engagement for Center

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority‘s board Thursday said it has taken steps to further the development of a first-of-its-kind Maternal and Infant Health Innovation Center in Trenton.

The board entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the John S. Watson Institute of Urban Policy and Research at Kean University to undertake an iterative community engagement process designed to build trust and support from Trenton residents and organizational stakeholders, as well as understand the services needed to improve maternal and infant health outcomes for Trenton’s new and expectant mothers and children.

The MOU stems from a Request for Information about the center issued by the EDA in May 2021, in which respondents strongly emphasized that planning for the center needed to be community-driven, with ample opportunity for Trenton community members and stakeholders to offer their perspectives on the center’s offerings, partnerships and opportunities to leverage existing community assets in the city.

The EDA board also approved adding funds to its existing real estate services contract with JLL, with the intention of having JLL undertake the initial real estate planning for the Maternal and Infant Health Innovation Center.

“Because institutionalized racism has seeped its way into our maternal health outcomes, reaching our goal of ensuring that every mother and baby in New Jersey gets off to a healthy start will require a broad scope of work,” first lady Tammy Murphy said. “The Maternal and Infant Health Innovation Center in Trenton will play a leading role in this effort, providing care not only equitably and with leading maternal care practices, but, also, from the very beginning, will be shaped by the input of the community it serves. Ultimately, we hope to solve our Black maternal and infant health crisis here in New Jersey and serve as the benchmark for maternal care nationwide.”

“The Maternal and Infant Health Innovation Center will be an asset to Trenton even beyond its obvious health care implications,” EDA CEO Tim Sullivan said. “It will elevate the standard of care for local moms and newborns while catalyzing additional development. It will also revitalize the community by creating good jobs and generating economic activity. We thank Gov. Phil Murphy, first lady Murphy and the center’s many supporters for their advocacy for and commitment to the well-being of Trenton families.”

In 2019, Tammy Murphy launched Nurture NJ in response to New Jersey’s need to improve access to care for expectant mothers and babies, with a commitment to both reducing maternal and infant mortality and morbidity and ensuring equitable care among women and children of all races and ethnicities. This campaign focuses on improving collaboration and programming between all departments, agencies and stakeholders to make New Jersey the safest and most equitable place in the nation to give birth and raise a baby.

The EDA’s efforts surrounding Nurture NJ and the Center for Maternal and Infant Health are being spearheaded by Executive Vice President of Economic Security Tara Colton.

“Maintaining an open dialogue with community members about their needs is fundamental to dismantling systemic inequities that exist with respect to access to care for expectant mothers of color and their children,” Colton said. “Our board took an important step today in ensuring that the lines of communication not only stay open but stay strong.”