RWJBarnabas Health Recognizes Second Annual Black Maternal Health Week

‘Listening to the voices of each individual woman in the communities we serve’

RWJBarnabas Health Recognizes Second Annual Black Maternal Health WeekWest Orange, NJ, April 15, 2019 – RWJBarnabas Health, the largest, most comprehensive health care system in New Jersey, with a service area covering nine counties with five million people, is committed to the health and well-being of women throughout pregnancy, delivery and the postpartum period.

As part of that commitment, the system is recognizing the second annual Black Maternal Health Week (#BMHW19), which is raising awareness for ensuring safe, respectful care for black mothers and amplifying community-driven policy research and care solutions. The week is key to April’s National Minority Health Month, an initiative to advance health equity across the country on behalf of all racial and ethnic minorities.

“Maternal morbidity and mortality continues to rise across the country especially for black women. In New Jersey, black women are at three to four times the risk of white women to die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth and this needs to change,” said Suzanne Spernal, DNP, APN-BC, RNC-OB, CBC, Vice President of Women’s Services, RWJBarnabas Health, and a leader in maternal health. “Most hospitals and providers strive to provide the same level of high quality care to all women, however all women are not the same. Ensuring the highest quality care to all women requires understanding and providing care to the unique physical, social, and emotional needs of each individual woman.”

RWJBarnabas Health (RWJBH) physicians and health care professionals deliver almost a quarter of all hospital births in the state of New Jersey. As such, the hospital system is uniquely positioned to make transformative change, which it is doing through the work of the OB Collaborative of RWJBarnabas Health. The OB Collaborative has representatives on the NJ Perinatal Quality Collaborative and the NJ Maternal Mortality Review Committee and has also provided testimony to The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee hearing on maternal/infant mortality.

The goal of the OB Collaborative is ending preventable morbidity, mortality and racial disparities in maternity care. In a joint effort to address maternal mortality and racial disparities the OB Collaborative partnered with the ED Collaborative of RWJBarnabas Health to more effectively identify and treat women who may be experiencing symptoms of a life threatening postpartum complication. The complications of the fourth trimester – considered to be the first 42 days after a woman gives birth and the time period where the majority of maternal deaths occur – are a recognized problem, but few healthcare organizations have the tools or ability to properly address what is a critical time period in maternal health. Through the OB/ED partnership, a protocol was created for RWJBH emergency rooms – even at hospitals where there is no OB care – so the right questions are asked of patients from the very beginning and all postpartum women are cared for appropriately and timely from the moment they enter the Emergency Department.

On the community level, in order to effect meaningful change, the system is working toward developing community listening sessions, in conjunction with trusted leaders embedded in each of our unique communities. “Black women’s voices and lived experiences are vital for us to understand, and then address, the challenges black women face when engaging with the health care system,” added Spernal, “Health equities should be a priority for all health care providers. This can only be accomplished when we begin to recognize and acknowledge our own biases and understand how these biases can affect health outcomes.”

RWJBarnabas Health is the largest, most comprehensive health care system in New Jersey, with a service area covering nine counties with five million people. The system includes eleven acute care hospitals – Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville, Community Medical Center in Toms River, Jersey City Medical Center in Jersey City, Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus in Lakewood, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, RWJUH in New Brunswick, RWJUH Somerset in Somerville, RWJUH Hamilton, RWJUH Rahway and Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston; three acute care children’s hospitals and a leading pediatric rehabilitation hospital with a network of outpatient centers (Children’s Specialized Hospital) with its multiple outpatient centers, a freestanding 100-bed behavioral health center, two trauma centers, a satellite emergency department, ambulatory care centers, geriatric centers, the state’s largest behavioral health network, comprehensive home care and hospice programs, fitness and wellness centers, retail pharmacy services, a medical group, multi-site imaging centers and two accountable care organizations.

RWJBarnabas Health is New Jersey’s largest private employer – with more than 33,000 employees, 9,000 physicians and 1,000 residents and interns – and routinely captures national awards for outstanding quality and safety. RWJBarnabas Health recently announced a partnership with Rutgers University to create New Jersey’s largest academic health care system. The collaboration will align RWJBarnabas Health with Rutgers’ education, research and clinical activities, including those at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care. RWJBarnabas Health, in partnership with Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey - the state's only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center - brings a world class team of researchers and specialists to fight alongside you, providing close-to-home access to the latest treatment and clinical trials.