New Jersey’s relatively high maternal mortality rate has been a focus of public health experts in the state for some time. We have one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the U.S., which in turn has among the worst outcomes of any industrial nation. The danger for Black women and babies in New Jersey is as much as four times what it is for white moms and babies.
Nurture New Jersey, an effort led by first lady Tammy Murphy, is aimed at improving the state’s abysmal birth safety statistics. As part of that, the state Department of Health announced an initiative to further develop a diverse workforce of community doulas — or birth educators — to support women during pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and early parenting.
Currently, approximately 79 doulas are trained and certified through New Jersey health department pilot programs and another 150 to 200 doulas work in private practice, independent of the state.
DOH is giving a grant to HealthConnect One to establish a doula learning collaborative to increase the number of trained community doulas, who provide practical, social and emotional support to pregnant women, prenatal to postpartum. The collaborative will also support doulas in engaging with multiple health systems and process Medicaid reimbursement claims for their services. The grant is for $450,000 for one year with the possibility of continued funding for two additional years.
“Doula care can lead to lower rates of maternal and infant health complications, fewer pre-term births and low-birthweight infants, higher rates of breastfeeding, and so much more,” Murphy said.