Promising Practices to Reduce Maternal Mortality in New Jersey

Nurture NJ is an umbrella that breaks down silos between stakeholders, bringing them together to tackle issues related to maternal and child health.



According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 700 women die each year due to pregnancy-related complications – three out of five of those deaths are preventable. Maternal mortality is greatest among Black and Indigenous communities throughout the nation; however, some states have had more significant challenges than others. In 2018, New Jersey was ranked 47th in the nation for maternal mortality overall, with Black women five times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women. To address these significant disparities and curb the rate of preventable deaths, New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy created Nurture New Jersey (Nurture NJ), with the goal of making the state the safest and most equitable place in the nation to give birth and raise a baby. Since its launch in early 2019, Governor Phil Murphy has signed thirty-five pieces of legislation and the First Lady has created workgroups with various stakeholders to develop strategies to improve birth outcomes. In January 2021, Nurture NJ released its strategic plan outlining work to date and next steps, in the form of detailed recommendations and a robust implementation and evaluation strategy.

Nurture NJ logo

Nurture NJ is an umbrella that breaks down silos between stakeholders, bringing them together to tackle issues related to maternal and child health (MCH). Seated in the First Lady’s office, the program facilitates collaborative partnerships with the Governor’s office, 18 state agencies and national MCH organizations. The initiative has also partnered with state legislative caucuses to brief legislators on issues affecting the MCH population. Direct funding is earmarked for the Nurture NJ campaign, including much of their community outreach work; however, the initiative also works with partners to obtain support for various programs under the larger umbrella. For example, state budget dollars in 2020 were allocated to increase Medicaid reimbursement for midwifes and fund implicit bias training at labor and delivery hospitals, as well as Federally Qualified Health Centers, as a part of advancing Nurture NJ’s mission. The initiative also receives support from organizations like the Nicholson Foundation, Community Health Acceleration Partnership, and the Burke Foundation for various projects, including the New Jersey Adverse Childhood Experiences Collaborative and the Nurture NJ Maternal and Infant Health Strategic Plan. Furthermore, Nurture NJ has worked with partners to secure federal grants, such as the CDC Preventative Health Services Block Grant for the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) Healthy Women Healthy Families Program. Overall, the initiative has assisted in procuring around $19 million for various MCH-related programs in the state thus far.