Reducing the Black Infant Mortality Rate in New Jersey

New Jersey’s infant mortality rate is among the lowest in the nation, but a black infant in the state is three times more likely to die prior to their first birthday than a white baby. After receiving a federal grant last year, $4.3 million was awarded to six community-based organizations to implement maternal and child programs across the state to begin to eliminate these disparities.

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The Murphy administration has stated that reducing black infant mortality is one of its top priorities. Earlier this month, First Lady Tammy Murphy launched Nurture NJ, a statewide awareness campaign committed to reducing infant and maternal mortality among women and children of all races and ethnicities. In addition, the New Jersey Department of Health is devoting $450,000 to implement a doula pilot program in municipalities with especially high black infant mortality rates.

The infant mortality gap across the state is rooted in many causes, including lack of health insurance, health problems associated with poverty, unintended pregnancies, substandard housing, inadequate prenatal care and living in communities with high rates of addiction and violence.

Black mothers are also three times more at risk for losing their lives, during or after their pregnancy, than white women in New Jersey, and are 47% more likely to deliver a baby prematurely, which can expose the child to health risks that can linger for years, or are lifelong.

The six organizations awarded grant money will work with pregnant and postpartum mothers identified as “high-risk" through programs funded through 2023. These women, on average, attend fewer prenatal visits and are more likely to experience adverse pregnancy outcomes. Their families are less likely to access consistent, comprehensive preventive and primary care services, and are less likely to receive quality care.

Services will focus on high-need municipalities, such as Atlantic City, Camden, Trenton, Newark and Paterson. Programs will monitor families and connect them with public health programs in areas such as improving nutrition and physical fitness, increasing immunizations and vaccinations, promoting safe sleep education, and access to home visitation programs.