NEW JERSEY – In an effort to improve health outcomes among Black and Hispanic infants and mothers in New Jersey, three maternal and child health agencies across the state have been awarded $3.5 million in grant funding as part of the New Jersey Department of Health’s (NJDOH) continuation of the Healthy Women, Healthy Families (HWHF) initiative.
The HWHF program was launched in 2018 to improve maternal and infant health outcomes and promote access to quality health care focusing on childbearing women between the ages of 15 and 44. HWHF has expanded access to programs, enhanced case management services, reinforced partnership collaborations, and supported multiple diverse communities.
This program complements the Administration’s other ongoing efforts to address disparities and improve maternal and infant health, including First Lady Tammy Murphy’s Nurture NJ initiative, which launched in 2019.
“The disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes for our Black and Hispanic communities are unacceptable. Initiatives like Healthy Women, Healthy Families support Nurture NJ’s efforts to improve these statistics,” said First Lady Murphy. “I am thrilled to see the great progress made through the first HWHF grant cycle, and I look forward to continuing this momentum with the three agencies in this next cycle. Together, we are working to make our state a safer and healthier place to deliver and raise a baby for all families.”
“The next phase of Healthy Women, Healthy Families grants will enable our community health partners to reach deep into communities to help further improve maternal and child health,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “Through these and other efforts, New Jersey continues to make strides in reducing health disparities and mortality among women and children.”
The HWHF grant award amount of approximately $3.5 million is for one fiscal year with an additional four-year continuation based on agency performance of prior years and availability of funds through June 30, 2028.
Three community-based grantees were selected to implement these maternal and child programs in four regions, covering the state while targeting communities with high Non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic maternal and infant mortality rates:
- $1,775,000 to the Partnership for Maternal & Child Health of Northern New Jersey to cover the following counties and municipalities: Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Passaic, Sussex, Union and Warren counties and the cities of Elizabeth, Newark, Paterson, and Plainfield.
- $805,000 to Central Jersey Family Health Consortium for the following counties and municipalities: Ocean, Monmouth, Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset, and Hunterdon counties and the cities of Trenton and New Brunswick
- $915,000 to Southern New Jersey Perinatal Cooperative for the following counties and municipalities: Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May, Cumberland, Salem, Gloucester, and Camden counties and the cities of Atlantic City and Camden
For greater reach, these grantees will be required to subcontract with community-level organizations, such as minority/multicultural/advocacy organizations, faith-based organizations, libraries, community centers, family planning agencies, and other community-driven agencies.
The HWHF grant will primarily focus on community health worker case management and municipal programs in four regions of the state and includes postpartum doula care for the first 12 months after delivery, and breastfeeding education and support for nontraditional groups including, fathers, grandparents, partners, siblings, and pregnant teens.
HWHF’s new focus on non-traditional group breastfeeding education aligns with the New Jersey Breastfeeding Strategic Plan. These targeted educational opportunities for non-traditional groups will increase breastfeeding knowledge and provide families the support they need to breastfeed their babies. This training is in recognition of the increased likelihood a mother will start and continue breastfeeding if she has access to the advice and support of friends and family members.
In New Jersey, according to data from 2016-2018, a non-Hispanic Black mother is nearly seven times more likely than a non-Hispanic White mother to die due to pregnancy complications, and a non-Hispanic Black baby is almost three times likely to die before their first birthday compared to non-Hispanic White infants.
The rate for a Hispanic mother is 3.5 times and a Hispanic baby is nearly 1.5 times higher than their non-Hispanic White counterparts.
Although disparities remain, progress is being made in New Jersey’s maternal and infant health outcomes. New Jersey currently ranks 29th in the nation for maternal deaths, up from 45th when the Murphy Administration began in 2018, according to America’s Health Rankings. Additionally, New Jersey is one of only four states across the country that has shown improvement in reducing preterm births according to a 2022 report by March of Dimes. In the five years between 2016 and 2021, New Jersey’s preterm birth rate fell from 9.9% to 9.2%.
The Healthy Women, Healthy Families grant previously funded Connecting NJ, a county-based statewide referral system that streamlines the referral process between health care providers, community agencies and New Jersey families. Connecting NJ provides resources and linkages to programs such as home visiting, community health worker case management, community doulas, and many other services. For this grant cycle of HWHF, Connecting NJ will be funded separately by NJDOH.
In addition, in response to the recommendations from the doula pilot evaluation by Montclair State University, the HWHF initiative will connect community health workers with doulas and provide the necessary support many women need during the post-partum period. HWHF aims to integrate the work and increase the collaboration of the new postpartum care doula program and community health workers to increase postpartum follow-up and care in the three months after birth. This work builds on the current efforts made with training, coordinating, and enrolling community doulas for Medicaid reimbursement by focusing on the importance of this critical period of maternal care.