Princeton health summit focuses on impact of race in maternal health issues

At the Fourth Annual Population Health Summit in Princeton, presenters and attendees set their focus on the topics of maternal mortality and infant health — and the undercurrent of unconscious bias and structural racism that informs both.

Black mothers are five times more likely to die than white mothers in New Jersey, which is ranked 45th in the nation for overall maternal health.

Joia Crear-Perry, president of the National Birth Equity Collaborative, noted that black women often have poor outcomes, regardless of socioeconomic status, health and education.

“Black women who initiated prenatal care in the first trimester still had higher rates of infant mortality than non-Hispanic white women with late or no prenatal care,” said Crear-Perry. “Right, so when we do our part, you’re still failing us.”

One breakout session focused on lead contamination in drinking water in many of the state’s municipalities and the impact of prenatal exposure to the dangerous element.

“Lead and mercury both readily cross the placenta barrier, and lead to negative outcomes,” said Eric P. Bind, a research scientist at the state Department of Health. “Some examples are shorter gestational ages, smaller birth weights, smaller head and stomach circumferences as a birth outcome.”

The state hopes a $10.5 million grant awarded to the New Jersey Maternity Care Quality Collaborative will help the multidisciplinary team create a strategy and benchmarks for improvement.

RELATED: Program offers words of encouragement, support to mothers in need

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