NJ’s first lady continues push on maternal, infant health initiatives

Matthew Fazelpoor//September 19, 2022//

NJ’s first lady continues push on maternal, infant health initiatives

Matthew Fazelpoor//September 19, 2022//

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Over the last few weeks, Tammy Murphy has continued her efforts to highlight the issue of maternal and infant health, an initiative at the center of her work as the state’s first lady. Earlier this month, Murphy took part in the launch of the TeamBirth NJ initiative, which is an evidence based, national model for better provider and patient communication, also called “shared decision-making.”

The program is led by the Quality Institute, in partnership with Ariadne Labs with funding being provided through the state Department of Health. The three hospitals involved with the launch are RWJBarnabas Health’s Monmouth Medical Center, Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center and Virtua Voorhees Hospital. TeamBirth also launched at Virtua Health’s Midwifery Birth and Wellness Center.

TeamBirth was designed around the tenets of communication, teamwork and clinical care. The goal of the initiative is to ensure that people giving birth and the clinicians who are caring for share input and understanding about decisions during labor and delivery.

The launch comes at a critical time with New Jersey Department of Health data showing that pregnancy-related deaths in the state have been increasing with major racial disparities. “A Black mother in the State of New Jersey is more than seven times more likely than a white mother to die from pregnancy-related complications,” said Murphy at the launch. “And a Black baby is three times more likely to die before their first birthday than a white baby.”

Linda Schwimmer, the president and CEO of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, said her organization has long worked to improve maternal infant outcomes. “Bringing TeamBirth to New Jersey advances this critical mission by strengthening communication between providers and patients,” Schwimmer said. “We know that patients who are empowered to make decisions about their care that better reflect their personal preferences often experience more favorable outcomes.”

“All people who give birth deserve to have a safe, dignified experience. TeamBirth is an evidence-based approach to turn this vision into a reality,” said Amber Weiseth, director of Delivery Decisions at Ariadne Labs. “We are excited to collaborate with these three hospitals in New Jersey to ensure that the patient voice is central to all decisions in labor and delivery. We hope to see this model continue to spread to ensure the best possible care experience for every patient, everywhere.”

“Behind these statistics are obviously real women, babies and families,” Murphy said. “And together we can ensure that they not only come into this world happy and healthy, but that they live well into their years.”

First Lady Tammy Murphy
TeamBirth was designed around the tenets of communication, teamwork and clinical care. “I am thrilled to see Nurture NJ build upon the significant progress we have already made,” said First Lady Tammy Murphy, shown here at the January 2019 launch of the initiative. – EDWIN J. TORRES/GOVERNOR’S OFFICE


The participating health systems say they welcome the initiative and the opportunity to be early adopters.

“At RWJBarnabas Health, we are committed to ensuring that all families have access to quality, respectful and equitable maternity care. Implementing the TeamBirth model will help ensure families giving birth and the health care teams caring for them are engaging in shared decision making, which is linked to a better patient experience and improved birth outcomes,” said Suzanne Spernal, vice president of Women’s Services, RWJBarnabas Health. “Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center and Monmouth Medical Center deliver nearly 13,000 babies a year and are excited to collaborate with the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, the New Jersey Department of Health, and Ariadne Labs to launch the TeamBirth model in New Jersey.”

“Virtua Health believes that patient-centered care leads to the best birth experiences,” said Nicole Lamborne, Virtua’s vice president of Clinical Operations – Women’s Health. “We have the medical protocols in place to ensure a safe labor, delivery, and post-partum experience. The addition of the TeamBirth NJ communication initiative fostering shared decision-making during the birthing process will only strengthen the relationship between patients and providers and result in the best outcomes for mothers and babies.”

A shared whiteboard, which is located in all labor and delivery rooms, is a central component of the TeamBirth model. It serves as an ongoing shared reference for the team to outline care plans and progress for the patient and the baby.

With the New Jersey launch, TeamBirth has now been implemented in more than 60 hospitals nationwide, collectively involving more than 1,500 clinicians and more than 67,000 mothers and babies.

Earlier this month, Murphy hosted a roundtable to discuss the more than $58 million in FY 2023 budget investments toward the Nurture NJ initiative, which aims to reduce New Jersey’s maternal mortality by 50% over five years while eliminating racial disparities in birth outcomes.

“I am so grateful for the funding allocated to Nurture NJ in this year’s budget, which will allow us to continue our work transforming our state into the safest and most equitable in the nation to deliver and raise a baby,” Murphy said. “Given New jersey has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the nation exacerbated by unacceptable racial disparities for our mothers and babies, we feel it is our moral imperative to continue this fight.”

Since 2019, Gov. Phil Murphy has signed more than 40 pieces of maternal and infant health legislation. Among the budget investments are $20 million to support the development of the Maternal and Infant Health Innovation Center; more than $17 million to continue developing the universal newborn home visitation program; $15 million to raise Medicaid rates for maternity care providers; over $2 million to increase case management capacity in Connecting NJ hubs, as well as money to create a feedback database and public health campaigns.

“These necessary investments will continue to address and combat the shocking numbers our state holds in maternal and infant mortality rates and racial disparities in health care,” said Gov. Murphy. “The health of our mothers and babies is of utmost importance to each of the First Lady and me, as well as this Administration as a whole.”

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli

“Across New Jersey’s health system there is a shared commitment to reducing maternal mortality, morbidity and disparities,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “Improving maternal and child outcomes will result in healthier families, and a stronger and healthier New Jersey.”

“We’ve taken steps to expand postpartum Medicaid coverage for a full year, end reimbursement for early elective caesarean-sections, increase reimbursement for midwives, begin covering doula services and design a first of its kind episode of care model for maternity payments,” said Human Services Commissioner Sarah Adelman. “This is another step forward in our shared goal – transformational change in a system that has failed too many mothers and babies, particularly those of color.”

“As a community health worker, I can’t tell you the endless number of stories I hear from mothers as far as needing assistance with prenatal care and postpartum care,” said Kashieka Phillips, community health worker and mother. “With the help of Nurture NJ, we will be able to spread the word about available doula services and the benefits that come with them.”

“I am thrilled to see Nurture NJ build upon the significant progress we have already made, better support mothers and babies during one of the most vulnerable times of their lives, and, through innovative policymaking, become the national gold standard for maternal and infant health,” said the First Lady.