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Rice, Sumter, Jackson Led Discussion on Racial Disparities in Prenatal Services and Infant Mortality in NJ

TRENTON – The Legislative Black Caucus recently convened a hearing to discuss the high rate of mortality of African American mothers and infants in New Jersey.

Led by Senator Ron Rice, chair of the caucus, and Assemblywomen Shavonda Sumter and Verlina Reynolds Jackson, the roundtable discussion was held in the statehouse in Trenton. Among the invited guests were Mrs. Tammy Murphy, Commissioners, Carole Johnson and Shereef Elanahal of the Department of Human Services and the Department of Health, respectively.

“We have a serious problem here in the state – pregnant women are not receiving the same level of healthcare when it comes to race and economic status in the state.  And we can see the results in the New Jersey’s high women and infant mortality rates,” said Sumter (Bergen/Passaic), who is vice-chair of the Legislative Black Caucus. “The numbers are devastating 37 mothers die after birth per 100,000 new mothers. That’s nearly double the national rate. Clearly, we have to do more to meet families where they are.”

“New Jersey black mothers and their babies are less likely to survive childbirth than any other race. This is a crisis,” said Assemblywoman Jackson (D-Mercer/Hunterdon), who co-chaired the discussion. “We needed to bring everyone and discuss what has gone wrong and what we can do better. Saving our mothers and children must be a priority.”

“The Black infant mortality rate in this country, in this state, is disturbing and unacceptable.  Black babies in New Jersey are more than three times as likely to die before their first birthday as White babies are.  And according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the mortality rate is also almost twice as high  as the infant mortality rate for all races,” said Senator Rice (D-Essex).  “We need more Black people to be a part of the conversation and to be at the table to figure out how we can combat the high level of Black infant mortality in New Jersey.”

Mrs. Tammy Murphy testified at the hearing on Tuesday providing details on state initiatives and the efforts of the administration to expand healthcare for women.

“Mothers run marathons every day to care for their families, and we should make sure that access to healthcare isn’t another obstacle in their way,” said Mrs. Murphy. “When we alleviate the burdens of social determinants of health, we will begin to reduce our maternal and infant mortality rates.”

Of the maternal deaths in New Jersey, 46.5% are Black mother, compared to 13.7% Latina mothers and 12.8% white mothers. The rate of mortality in New Jersey is 4.8 per 1000 live births. For black babies the rate is 9.7 100, compared to 3 per 1000 for white babies. Lack of access to proper health care, family support, housing and employment stability and awareness of resources are some of the issues that may attribute to the state’s high mortality rate.

The roundtable discussion was held Tuesday, September 18. The Legislative Black Caucus intends to convene additional meetings with stakeholders to devise an action plan and work alongside the Governor to address the disparities and close the gap.