NEW JERSEY – Governor Phil Murphy this week signed S703/A1079, requiring all health care professionals who provide perinatal treatment and care to pregnant persons at a hospital or birthing center undergo explicit and implicit bias training.
The requirement of the explicit and implicit bias training will help to improve New Jersey’s high rates of Black maternal and infant mortality and the racial disparities that drive this crisis.
“The health of our Black mothers and babies is critical to the health of our state – period,” Murphy said. “This value is reflected in my Fiscal Year 2021 budget through the full funding of explicit and implicit bias training for all staff at our labor and delivery hospitals and Federally Qualified Health Centers. I am grateful and proud that my colleagues in the Legislature share this value and I am committed to continuing our work to eliminate the racial disparities that fuel the Black maternal and infant and mortality crisis in New Jersey.”
“For the past three years, Nurture NJ has been laser focused on transforming a system that has historically failed Black women and babies,” First Lady Tammy Murphy said. “The Nurture NJ Maternal and Infant Health Statewide Strategic Plan is our blueprint to address the core factor at the heart of our Black maternal and infant health crisis — implicit bias and systemic racism. This is a massive undertaking that requires collaboration across all levels of government and industries, and I am grateful that the Governor and Legislature recognize the kind of systemic change needed to ensure a healthy start for every New Jersey mother and baby.”
The bill was sponsored by Senators Ruiz and Cunningham and Assemblywomen Speight, Pintor Marin, and Reynolds-Jackson.
“It is unacceptable that New Jersey has the fourth highest maternal mortality rate in the country, with Black women being nearly four times more likely than white women to lose their life during or after childbirth,” Ruiz said. “By unpacking the implicit biases healthcare workers may hold, we can begin to improve outcomes across racial demographics and provide more equitable care to our mothers around the state. While the signing of this legislation is a significant step in the right direction, it is crucial we continue to do everything we can to ensure all of our residents are receiving the highest quality of care.”
“Far too often we hear stories of Black women’s complaints about pain or discomfort being ignored or brushed aside, only to result in serious complications or death,” Cunningham said. “Doctors may not be intentionally treating Black women differently, but the maternal mortality data makes it clear that there are systemic issues resulting in vast disparities in outcomes. The signing of this legislation is the first step in addressing the implicit biases that may be impacting the quality of care women of color receive.”
“Government officials and healthcare professionals alike have been making a concerted effort to improve maternal health outcomes in our state,” Speight said. “But this endeavor ultimately cannot succeed unless every mother receives the same standards of treatment. That means we have to address the underlying biases that are serving as a barrier to quality healthcare for far too many women of color in New Jersey.”
“As we examine maternal and infant mortality disparities in New Jersey, my colleagues and I have heard some genuinely heart-rending stories that shine a spotlight directly on the role implicit bias plays in impacting the quality of care,” Marin said. “The key to solving this problem lies in understanding that implicit bias means the provider doesn’t even realize they are treating certain patients differently based on unconscious thought processes. Training to recognize and overcome that is not just necessary, but critical.”
“Every patient deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their race, ethnicity or background,” Reynolds-Jackson said. “Equality of care can mean the difference between life and death for black women in particular, who are nearly seven times more likely to die from pregnancy than white women. Implementing these training programs would help health professionals identify, understand and overcome their biases to help prevent these disparities going forward.”