WEST ORANGE, NJ RWJBarnabas Health (RWJBH) recently marked Jan. 23 as the first statewide observance of Maternal Health Awareness Day.

According to RWJBH, the proclamation for Maternal Health Awareness Day in New Jersey was signed by Gov. Chris Christie on May 11, 2017 with the objective increasing maternal health awareness for all residents of the state, including providers of women’s healthcare services, the general public, legislators, insurance company executives and other interested parties.

“Our participation in Maternal Health Awareness Day is one of the many ways in which our system is taking an active in role in educating our communities about the importance of healthy pregnancies to ensure positive outcomes for moms and babies,” said John Bonamo, MD, MS, FACOG, FACPE, Executive Vice President, Chief Medical and Quality Officer of RWJBH.

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On the clinical side in 2015, the RWJBH OB Collaborative was established to assist health care providers by instituting evidence-based protocols to address the rising concerns of maternal health, Bonamo said. The collaborative brings together the top minds in obstetrics care across the system and takes a multidisciplinary team approach by actively engaging physicians, nurses and support-service leadership.

“Together we are focused on improving the quality and safety of healthcare services delivered to women throughout their pregnancies, deliveries, and their post-partum period and to ensuring that every woman has voice when it comes to her maternal care,” said Bonamo.

The RWJBH OB Collaborative meets regularly to identify best practices, to review and implement evidence based protocols, to address challenges and to evaluate and implement ways to improve maternal care.

For example, to help address complications of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, which is one of the leading causes of maternal morbidity and mortality, the OB Collaborative created a bundle that includes a standardized order set and care pathway to support physicians and residents in clinical decision making to improve maternal care. The bundles were created using guidelines and recommendations from The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and are currently being implemented system-wide.  

RWJBH has also partnered with several outside organizations to improve maternal outcomes across the state. RWJBH has committed to participating with the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health (AIM), a national data-driven maternal safety and quality improvement initiative based on proven implementation approaches to improving maternal safety and outcomes in the U.S, as well as with the New Jersey Hospital Association on its statewide initiative to reduce New Jersey’s high cesarean delivery rate, which is often a cause of post-partum complications.

RWJBH has also helped to develop, through work with The New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, the framework for a maternity episode of care for Medicare patients to ensure that all women have better access to care.

RWJBH’s initiatives for 2018 will focus on the opioid crisis and working with the New Jersey Hospital Association’s Perinatal Quality Collaborative and the consortiums on education programs to support nurses and physicians who care for pregnant women with addiction issues; creating additional programs for women struggling with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders; and partnering its providers with community-based programs to support at risk women before during and after pregnancy.

“Our work through the RWJBH OB Collaborative and our outside partnerships is centered on implementing the best practices to continually improve the quality of care for women and their babies,” said Bonamo. “RWJBH remains committed to developing new programs and initiatives to proactively address issues of maternal health and mortality and to actively participating in the ‘Stop, Look, and Listen’ maternal health and safety campaign.”

In recognition of Maternal Health Awareness Day, facilities across the RWJBH system hosted various education events for health care providers and the community to help increase awareness of maternal health issues within the communities they serve.