The culmination of more than a year's worth of talks with over 100 stakeholders, a strategic plan unveiled by New Jersey first lady Tammy Murphy has the aggressive five-year goal of cutting in half the rate of mothers who die from pregnancy-related complications.

The Nurture NJ Maternal and Infant Health Strategic Plan is the latest element of Murphy's Nurture NJ initiative, which aims to transform the Garden State into the safest and most equitable place in the nation for delivering and raising a baby.

Currently in New Jersey, which has the fourth-highest maternal mortality rate in the nation, the maternal mortality rate is seven times greater for Black women compared to their white counterparts. Black babies in the state are three times more likely than white babies to die before their first birthdays.

"At its most fundamental level, the plan meets the specific needs of women in their local communities where they live, work, worship, play and love," Murphy said during a Zoom news conference. "It's designed to make transformational change in a system that has historically failed our mothers and babies of color."

The plan includes more than 70 recommendations for maternal health stakeholders, within nine action areas:

  • Build racial equity infrastructure and capacity
  • Support community infrastructures for power-building and consistent engagement in decision-making
  • Engage multiple sectors to achieve collective impact on health
  • Shift ideology and mindsets to increase support for transformative action
  • Strength and expand public policy to support conditions for health in New Jersey
  • Generate and more widely disseminate data and information for improved decision-making
  • Change institutional structures to accommodate innovation and transformative action
  • Address the social determinants of health
  • Improve the quality of care and service delivery to individuals

"The healthcare system failed to give me the quality of care that me and my son deserved," Parsippany resident Ajanee McConnell told reporters ahead of the Monday morning announcement.

McConnell said the attitudes of healthcare professionals became "progressively worse" every time she complained of intense pain during her pregnancy, and that she was met with immediate judgment when she handed a nursing assistant her Medicaid card while she was going into pre-term labor at 19 weeks.

"I couldn't see my son come into this world, and I watched him struggle for survival for three days until he passed," the 23-year-old said. "I wish I would've known what I know now ... I share my story so that other young Black moms know that their voices deserve to be heard."

Enter your number to get our free mobile app

CHECK OUT: Top Jersey Shore Love Stories