New Jersey to offer free at-home wellness checks in attempt to cut maternal deaths

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New Jersey — which has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the U.S. — will establish a program letting new parents receive free at-home wellness checks from nurses, reports The New York Times.

For every 100,000 live births in 2020, more than 26 New Jersey women died of pregnancy complications, according to CDC data cited by the Times. Black women in New Jersey were seven times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women, the data showed.

The new bill, which Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy is set to sign July 29, will create a universal, voluntary home nurse visitation program for newborns aimed at reducing the state's maternal mortality rate, which is the fourth highest in the nation, according to the Times. The plan, called Nurture New Jersey, aims to cut state maternal mortality rates in half in five years.

The free wellness check — provided regardless of income or insurance status — will consist of a registered nurse coming to the homes of families with newborns and assessing mother and baby for physical problems, breastfeeding issues, postpartum mood disorders and any potential social factors. Research has found that the more support mothers have after birth, the better the outlook for both mother and baby, reports the Times. 

Oregon has a similar program, but New Jersey will be the first state to offer home visits within the first two weeks of birth. Adoptive parents and those who experience stillbirths will also be eligible for the program. Families are allotted up to three free home visits within three months, with services anticipated to become available within the year.

"We know that oftentimes when moms and families are experiencing some kind of life-threatening complication that they've had the symptoms for hours or days before they present to care," Suzanne Spernal, DNP, vice president of women's services at RWJBarnabas Health, told the Times. "This is an opportunity to intervene earlier so that we're able to possibly circumvent some of these catastrophic adverse events for mom and baby."

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