N.J. First Lady Tammy Murphy Joins Panelists in discussion of Racial Disparities in State Health Care

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Published January 25, 2020
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The Montclarion
Tammy Murphy, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy's wife, introducing and discussing the topic of Maternal Health. Olivia Kearns | The Montclarion

Montclair State University hosted New Jersey’s First Lady, Tammy Murphy, as she joined professors from the departments of nursing, child advocacy and public health in a panel called #123forMoms in University Hall earlier this week.

The Jan. 22 panel also included community partners and mothers who experienced problematic pregnancies. The #123forMoms event was created to bring awareness to Maternal Healthcare across the state.

Jill Wodnick, a childbirth educator at Montclair State, introducing each of the different speakers to talk about different maternal health problems.
Olivia Kearns | The Montclarion

Jill Wodnick, the panel coordinator and childbirth educator at Montclair State University, explained the purpose of the panel.

“Today’s panel is set up in the spirit of bipartisan legislation that started in 2017 and got implemented in 2018,” Wodnick said.

Wodnick also explained where the state of New Jersey falls in terms of death rates for pregnant women and infants in the United States.

“Out of all 50 states we are 47th in terms of maternal death,” Wodnick said. “That death rate for mothers in New Jersey is five times higher for women of color and the loss of infants is three times higher than caucasian infants. We have real racial disparities in maternal-infant health.”

Last September, Murphy and the New Jersey Department of Health announced a $10.5 million federal grant to support the work of the New Jersey Maternity Care Quality Collaborative (NJMCQC).

As reported by the New Jersey Department of Health, “The collaboration will establish a shared vision and statewide goals for key health services focused on decreasing maternal deaths, injuries and racial and ethnic disparities.”

The funding hopes to provide valuable data for research to lessen the mortality death rate of mothers and infants alike.

Ajanee McConnell, a senior at Montclair State, giving a speech about the loss of her son during pregnancy.
Olivia Kearns | The Montclarion

Senior student Ajanee McConnell, an African American woman majoring in child advocacy, spoke at the panel to discuss her struggle of losing a child after pregnancy. She was turned away during pre-labor and then rushed to the emergency room during labor. McConnell explained to the crowd how she was treated during her time at the hospital.

“I experienced so much racial bias in facilities. Nurses would come into the room [and] not even speak with me,” McConnell said. “Doctors would tell me things and I felt no compassion through [their] words. I have been trying to advocate for other people. No mother should leave the hospital without her child or without her questions answered.”

McConnell talked more about her loss in a one-on-one interview.

“His name was Sincere,” McConnell said. “He ended up being 3 months early and he was alive for 3 days before he passed.”

The speakers rallied around advocating for natural births, better maternal education for women and creating communities to help expecting mothers. They explained the need for maternal health is on the verge of a crisis.

Dr. Philip Bakelaar, Montclair State graphic communication specialist, creating a visual map of the panel series.
Olivia Kearns | The Montclarion

Marianella Martinez, a nutrition educator from Garfield, New Jersey, explained after attending the panel that she hopes to teach mothers about the nutrition they need to have a healthy pregnancy.

“[The panelists made] us aware of issues that exist in society that we did not know of before, really highlighting structural racism and sexism,” Martinez said. “It is time to wake up and do something about it.”

Montclair State has a program to help expecting mothers known as Lamaze Prenatal Childbirth Classes which is a three-week workshop series open to families at any point in pregnancy starting Jan. 30 at 4:45 p.m.

“You don’t have to be affiliated as a student to do [the program],” Wodnick said. “We have a community clinic at 35 Clove Road in which we offer prenatal childbirth education. It’s open to anybody.”

For more information about the program please contact Jill Wodnick at wodnickj@montclair.edu.

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