PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
January 23, 2018

Christopher Rinn
Acting Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

January 23rd is Maternal Health Awareness Day in New Jersey

The New Jersey Department of Health is calling on partners, stakeholders and all New Jersey residents to promote the state’s first annual Maternal Health Awareness Day by raising awareness of important maternal health and safety issues and joining forces to reduce maternal mortality.  Despite advances in medical science and technology, deaths related to complications from pregnancy and childbirth are on the rise nationally and in New Jersey. 


“We all have a stake in improving maternal health and ensuring access to care and resources that assist and empower women to be healthy and have healthy babies,” said Acting Health Commissioner Christopher Rinn.  “Every woman should have a healthy pregnancy and delivery and be assured that if problems arise, they will have the medical treatment and support they need.”


New Jersey is the first state in the nation to designate a day calling for action to raise public awareness about maternal health and promote maternal safety.   Governor Phil Murphy issued a proclamation recognizing the day.


Department officials will be participating in a forum on maternal health at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway on Jan. 31, 2018.


The increasing rate of maternal mortality and the racial gap that exists in pregnancy-related deaths are nationwide public health concerns.  The United States ranks near the bottom of the world's wealthy nations in the number of women who die from pregnancy and childbirth complications, according to the World Health Organization.


In New Jersey, pregnant women and new mothers die at a rate above the national average, according to the United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings.  The New Jersey Maternal Mortality Case Review Team found that African-American women are five times as likely as their white counterparts to die from pregnancy-related complications.  Eliminating disparities in maternal health outcomes requires expanding existing programs and a systems-wide approach that encompasses a network of healthcare and social services providers.                                                                                                                                           


The leading causes of pregnancy-related death include cardio-vascular disease, pregnancy-related heart failure, embolism, septic shock and cerebral hemorrhage.  Factors that may contribute to maternal deaths include obesity, chronic health conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, lack of prenatal care, and drug use. 


New Jersey’s longstanding commitment to reducing deaths related to pregnancy and childbearing began more than 80 years ago when a team of experts reviewed all maternal mortality cases, a process that continues today.  The Department uses this data to develop educational programs and recommendations for healthcare professionals and clinical practices.

The Department of Health provides a variety of programs in collaboration with other agencies, that focus on helping women stay healthy and prepare for healthy pregnancies. These programs include family planning services that help low-income and uninsured women in all 21 counties meet their healthcare needs, and Home Visiting that provides health screening and guidance to high-risk women and families.  WIC (Women, Infants and Children) services include supplemental food packages and healthcare referrals to pregnant women. 


A Department initiative called Improving Pregnancy Outcomes coordinates services through a single point of entry, integrating care for women and families in high-risk communities.  This model provides access, screening and referrals for clients and draws upon community health workers to recruit and provide case management. 


In 2017, the New Jersey Perinatal Quality Collaborative received a federal grant to improve perinatal care. The Department, the New Jersey Hospital Association (NJHA) and other members of the collaborative are improving perinatal care by reducing severe pregnancy complications associated with high blood pressure and hemorrhage, and reducing racial/ethnic and geographic disparities.


For more than a decade, the Department’s nationally recognized Postpartum Depression Program assists pregnant and postpartum women to access mental health treatment services, and a toll-free Family Health Line (1-800-328-3838) available 24/7 has trained counselors who can refer women to a variety of services.  Nutrition education is provided by SNAP-Ed’s “Eating Smart, Being Active,” a training program for pregnant women and new mothers.


Follow the New Jersey Department of Health on Twitter @njdeptofhealth, Facebook /njdeptofhealth, Instagram @njdeptofhealth and Snapchat @njdoh.

Last Reviewed: 1/23/2018