Apr 10, 2023 RWJBarnabas Health Recognizes Black Maternal Health Week 2023

From April 11 – 17, System Will Host Educational Webinars and Events Across Facilities, Raising Awareness for Black Maternal Health

Man and woman with ultrasound image

West Orange, NJ, April 6, 2023 – RWJBarnabas Health, the largest, most comprehensive academic health care system in New Jersey, 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 once again recognizing Black Maternal Health Week (#BMHW23), April 11-17, to raise awareness for ensuring safe, respectful care for Black mothers.

“Across the U.S. and in the state of New Jersey, maternal morbidity and mortality continue to rise, but for Black women, the statistics are alarming. Black women are significantly more likely to die from a pregnancy-related complication than their white peers, which is unacceptable. Across RWJBarnabas Health, we are committed to bringing about change, fostering a community of support for Black mothers, and amplifying the call for birth equity,” said Suzanne Spernal, DNP, APN-BC, RNC-OB, Senior Vice President of Women’s Services, RWJBarnabas Health, and a leader in maternal health.

Delivering approximately a quarter of all hospital births in the state of New Jersey annually, RWJBarnabas Health is uniquely positioned to effect transformative change. At the root of addressing inequities in care is a focus across the system on addressing the social determinants of health, and providing resources, such as transportation, to reduce barriers to care that impact Black women disproportionately. Several specific initiatives have been developed to improve maternal health outcomes for Black women, including:

  • The RWJBarnabas Health OB Collaborative, which is an interdisciplinary leadership team committed to ending preventable maternal morbidity, mortality and promoting equity in maternity care. Via various initiatives and programs, the team aims to increase access to quality, equitable care, address social determinants of health, and empower women through shared decision-making;
  • Participation in TeamBirth NJ, an evidence-based, national model for better provider and patient communication, which is designed to enhance birthing experiences and improve outcomes;
  • Centering Pregnancy, an evidence-based, clinically-led group prenatal support program that brings together expectant parents with similar pregnancy due dates to support healthy pregnancies and babies;
  • Family planning clinics, which provide high quality and comprehensive family planning and preventative health services at low or no cost.

“It is critical to raise awareness for Black maternal health, not just during Black Maternal Health Week, but throughout the year. If we are going to improve outcomes, we must listen to Black women and meet their needs,” said Meika Neblett, MD, MS, Chief Medical, Quality and Academic Officer at Community Medical Center, an RWJBarnabas Health facility. “Additionally, we know that implicit bias plays a role in maternal health outcomes, but as clinicians, we can apply strategies to address this. The more we evaluate our personal biases and how they impact patient care, the more effectively we can reduce it.”

As part of RWJBarnabas Health’s support for Black Maternal Health Week 2023, several events are planned at facilities across the system over the coming week, including special resources and education available for staff on topics such as the importance of Doulas and the risk of hypertension during pregnancy and the post-partum period. Two tentpole webinars are planned for system clinicians: the first presented by Dr. Neblett on the topic of bias and how it can be a contributing factor in maternal health outcomes, and another presented by Michael Straker, M.D., FACOG, Director of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Clara Maass Medical Center, on the importance of early prenatal care for Black mothers and modifications to be considered for working mothers.


RWJBarnabas Health is the largest, most comprehensive academic health care system in New Jersey, with a service area covering eight counties with five million people. The system includes twelve acute care hospitals – Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville, Community Medical Center in Toms River, Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, 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, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset in Somerville, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton in Hamilton, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Rahway in Rahway and Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth, three acute care children’s hospitals, Children’s Specialized Hospital with a network of outpatient pediatric rehabilitation 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, affiliated medical groups, multi-site imaging centers and two accountable care organizations.

RWJBarnabas Health is among New Jersey’s largest private employers – with more than 38,000 employees and 9,000 physicians– and routinely captures national awards for outstanding quality and safety. RWJBarnabas Health launched an affiliation with Rutgers University to create New Jersey’s largest academic health care system. The collaboration aligns RWJBarnabas Health with Rutgers' education, research and clinical activities, including those at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey - the state's only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center - and Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care. For more information, visit www.RWJBH.org.