Rutgers to study impact of CenteringPregnancy, innovative model to improve maternal/infant health

The Princeton-based Burke Foundation, which provides funding to promote meaningful impact on children and families across New Jersey, recently announced it will provide funding to enable the Rutgers School of Public Health to conduct the first statewide evaluation of an innovative model to improve maternal infant health through group prenatal visits.

CenteringPregnancy brings together 8-10 pregnant women all due around the same time for their routine prenatal visits. The participants have private time with their health care provider and then gather with other patients for a discussion with the provider and another care team member, such as a doula, nurse or patient navigator. These wide-ranging discussions cover such topics as nutrition, stress management, labor and delivery, breastfeeding, and infant care — or anything else on participants’ minds. Group members often form supportive relationships with their peers and connect in ways that are not possible in traditional prenatal care.

The groups feel it’s a promising way to deliver health care by bringing expectant mothers together so they can spend more time with their health care providers in a welcoming and supportive group setting.

A central aim of the evaluation of eight New Jersey CenteringPregnancy sites is to gather insights on how pregnant women with various backgrounds experience group health care. New Jersey has among the widest racial disparities for both maternal and infant mortality in the US. A Black mother in New Jersey is almost seven times more likely than a white mother to die from maternity-related complications, and Black babies are nearly three times more likely to die before their first birthday than white babies.

To help ensure women of color participating in Centering are comfortable during the evaluation, the Rutgers School of Public Health has partnered with six Black women who recently gave birth in New Jersey to help design the data collection tools and facilitate discussions with participants. These community researchers previously collaborated with Dr. Leslie Kantor at the Rutgers School of Public Health on a community-based participatory research study on Black women’s pregnancy-related experiences in Newark.

Research finds that this group prenatal care model helps improve outcomes for mothers and infants and improves their overall care experiences, especially among people of color.

“What we’ll learn will help us as we increase availability of CenteringPregnancy in New Jersey,” Atiya Weiss, executive director of the Burke Foundation, said. “It’s important to find out how we can better understand the value of the program to patients and providers and gauge its effectiveness and impact on participants’ health. We deeply value the engagement of community researchers working with Dr. Leslie Kantor and the Rutgers team.”

The Burke Foundation is funding the expansion of Centering to as many as 50 New Jersey sites; there are now 23 Burke-funded CenteringPregnancy and CenteringParenting sites in the state.