👶 Rutgers School of Nursing leads effort to improve maternal health education

👶 The Maternal and Infant Health Innovation Center will be based in Trenton

👶 It will provide prenatal clinical services, research initiatives and more

TRENTON — The New Jersey Economic Development Authority has tapped The Rutgers School of Nursing in Newark to lead the research, education, and training component of a new $75 million state initiative to improve maternal and infant care.

The initiative stems from First Lady Tammy Murphy’s greater initiative, The Nurture NJ strategic plan aimed at improving perinatal health outcomes in New Jersey, in particular, eliminating racial disparities in maternal and natal outcomes, said Dr. Julie Blumenfeld, a mid-wife and the program director of the Nurse-Midwifery Program within The School of Nursing at Rutgers University, Newark.

Rutgers will lead a consortium of state and community colleges that will collaborate with Capital Health and the Trenton Health Team to launch the Maternal and Infant Health Innovation Center.

Dr. Julie Blumenfeld (Nick Romanenko)
Dr. Julie Blumenfeld (Nick Romanenko)


According to a CDC maternal death and mortality rate report for each state between 2018 and 2021, there were 103 maternal deaths in New Jersey with a maternal mortality rate of 25.7%.

In addition, the maternal mortality rate for black women in New Jersey is nearly seven times higher than for white mothers.

The Innovation Center

“The innovation center is going to be a collaboration between a healthcare system, a community-based organization, and an institute of higher education to move the needle in reducing maternal morbidity and mortality in the state and eliminating racial disparities and maternal health outcomes,” Blumenfeld said.

The Trenton-based center will provide clinical services for the perinatal period, from conception til a year after birth, along with social and wrap-around services, workforce development, and research initiatives.

There will be three primary services in five targeted areas, Blumenfeld explained.


The main thing is expanding and diversifying the perinatal health workforce. That means developing new educational offerings including for, community health workers, doulas, lactation professionals, and advanced practice providers, like midwives, she said.

The center will also help create an interprofessional world-class perinatal health equity research center.

Offering professional development that’s specifically innovative and culturally responsible for the existing and growing perinatal workforce, is an important service of the center too, Blumenfeld said.

“As a midwife, having practiced for more than two decades in New Jersey, particularly in Trenton, this is an issue that is extremely close to my heart. I’m really honored that within my role at Rutgers, I will be able to be an integral part of this initiative,” Blumenfeld said.

Dr. Julie Blumenfeld (Nick Romanenko)
Dr. Julie Blumenfeld (Nick Romanenko)

How was Rutgers chosen for the project?

Rutgers applied with several other higher education institutions in the state.

One thing that’s unique about Rutgers’ application is that it will partner with other institutions across the state including Mercer County Community College, Stockton University, The College of New Jersey and Thomas Edison State University to pool together expertise and resources in research, education policy, and advocacy to help make healthcare more equitable, expand the perinatal workforce, reduce maternal mortality, and eliminate racial disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes, Blumenfeld said.

Princeton University has also expressed interest in joining the consortium in the future.


How will the consortium help improve outcomes and racial disparity?

By creating this diverse prenatal workforce that uses evidence-based care and practices and trains in a way to provide care with cultural humility, “we are going to be well-positioned to have this really well-prepared workforce with a lot of evidence-based policies and practices that then can move to improve outcomes in the state,” Blumenfeld said.

Other Plans

Working on opportunities for pre-licensure nurses and enabling them to have a greater focus on perinatal healthcare and perinatal equity is something else the innovation center plans to provide, besides education and training programs, Blumenfeld said.

Another plan is to expand existing and create new certificate and non-degree programs such as doulas, lactation specialists, and community healthcare workers, as well as focusing on mental and behavioral health education and training for community members and diverse healthcare providers.

A third plan is to provide on-the-go training opportunities such as clinical rotations for nurses, training for doulas, and shadowing for healthcare professionals.

“For all those people we’re educating, providing support services, so financial support, executive skills support and the research piece, creating that multi-disciplinary collaborative that’s the hub for research, that in particular is going to focus on complex healthcare needs, particularly for black and brown mothers and families in the state,” Blumenfeld said.

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