Vitale Resolution to Bring Awareness to Maternal Health Now Law

Senator Vitale

Resolution Designates January 23 of each year as Maternal Health Awareness Day

TRENTON – A joint resolution (SJR-92) sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale to make January 23rd of each year Maternal Health Awareness Day was signed into law today, just ahead of Mother’s Day this weekend.

“A mother’s health during her pregnancy and after childbirth cannot be an after-thought,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “Raising public awareness on maternal health and safety will aid efforts that lead to a reduction in maternal mortality, and this will benefit men, women and children.”

According to the World Health Organization, maternal health refers to the health of women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period.

Although maternal death rates have declined in other parts of the world, the rate of pregnancy-related deaths in this nation has actually risen in recent decades, despite recent advancements in medical science and technology.  In 1986, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) implemented a Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System to obtain information about the frequency and causes of pregnancy-related death in the United States, and the data collected has shown a steady increase in the number of reported pregnancy-related deaths.

In 2012, the most recent year for which surveillance data is available, there were approximately 16 pregnancy-related deaths per 100,000 live births in the United States, with the highest mortality rate being evidenced among black women, who suffered an average of 41 deaths per 100,000 live births.

“This is not just about women; this is about families being affected every day,” added Senator Vitale. “We must keep our eye on improving positive outcomes for mothers, babies and families.”

Several recently-developed maternal health initiatives, however, have adopted a promising approach to reducing the number of maternal deaths and increasing public and professional awareness of maternal health and safety issues. These initiatives include the Safe Motherhood Initiative, which was developed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG); the Postpartum Hemorrhage Project, developed by the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN); and the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health (AIM), which is a national partnership of organizations that is poised to reduce severe maternal morbidity through initiatives implemented in New Jersey and other states.

In New Jersey, the “Stop, Look, and Listen!” educational maternal safety campaign, was developed by the Tara Hansen Foundation, the Women’s Health Institute (WHI) of the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital to educate patients and health care practitioners about the importance of using a deliberative stop, look, and listen approach in response to maternal health complaints or other indications of maternal distress, as a means to prevent maternal deaths.

The designation of “Maternal Health Awareness Day” will promote greater public and professional awareness of, and participation in, these initiatives, and will encourage the establishment of other, similar programs.

The resolution, SJR-92, which takes effect immediately, calls on the Governor to issue a proclamation annually recognizing January 23 as “Maternal Health Awareness Day” in New Jersey.

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