New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) is expected to sign a new bill on Thursday that will establish a universal home nurse visitation program in an effort to address the state's high maternal mortality rate.
As The New York Times reports, the bill is part of the state's Nurture New Jersey plan, spearheaded by state first lady Tammy Murphy, which aims to reduce the maternal mortality rate by 50 percent over five years. As the Times notes, maternal mortality issues disparately affect Black women in New Jersey — and around the country.
“For Black women, they have the worst rates in the state, the state has among the worst rates in the country, and the country has among the worst rates in the world, so that’s put us in a place where we need to focus on changing this,” said Vijaya Hogan, a perinatal epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill who consulted on the plan.
In a statement from Murphy's office earlier this year, Nastassia Davis, founder of the Perinatal Health Equity Foundation, said the maternal mortality rate of Black women in New Jersey is seven times higher that of white women, calling the situation a "state of crisis."
“I can’t fathom that a mother could die due to maternity-related complications or the baby won’t live past its first birthday and that’s because of the color of somebody’s skin,” Tammy Murphy told the Times.
The voluntary plan would have a nurse visit the homes of newborns for a free wellness check regardless of income or insurance status. Adoptive parents and those who experience stillbirths will also be eligible under the plan. Up to three visits within the first three months will be allowed.
“This is a huge step in the right direction for moms, families and infants,” New Jersey's first lady said. “Visits like this are proven to strengthen families’ shot at success and economic growth.”
The nurses will be specially trained to assess both the mother and the newborn for physical problems, breastfeeding issues, postpartum mental health and social factors that may be affecting the family. They will also be able to connect the families to any resources they may need.