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For Release:
March 24, 2008

Heather Howard

For Further Information Contact:
Marilyn Riley
(609) 984-7160

Commissioner Howard Creates Statewide Prenatal Care Task Force


          Each year, thousands of pregnant women come to prenatal care late or not at all, and New Jersey must explore new approaches to ensuring women receive these vital health services, Health and Senior Services Commissioner Heather Howard said today in announcing her Prenatal Care Task Force.


The 25-member Task Force, which held its second meeting today, is charged with recommending steps New Jersey can take to further reduce barriers to care and increase women’s use of prenatal services.  The Task Force will present its report to Commissioner Howard this summer.


          In a report released late last year, the National Women’s Law Center and Oregon Health and Science University ranked New Jersey 40th in the nation in percent of women receiving prenatal care in the first three months of pregnancy.  While 80 percent of women overall received early care, only 64 percent of black women and 69 percent of Hispanic women did.


          “This is unacceptable.  New Jersey is a wealthy state and we can, and will, do better,” the Commissioner said.  “All children deserve a healthy start in life.  With early, high-quality prenatal care, women have the best chance of having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.”


          Women who receive late or no prenatal care are more likely to deliver a low birth weight baby or have a baby that dies before its first birthday.     


The Task Force includes a wide range of experts.  Among the physician members are practitioners in obstetrics and gynecology, and pediatrics.  Nurses and a nurse midwife serve on the panel as do representatives of hospital, primary care, family planning and child health advocacy groups.  Also represented are the state’s six maternal and child health consortia; the departments of Health and Senior Services, Human Services, and Children and Families; and the Office of the Child Advocate.


As part of its work, the panel is taking a closer look at the barriers women face in obtaining early prenatal care.  The group will also review current “best practices” in prenatal care, and identify programs that have successfully increased early entry into prenatal care.


The Task Force has begun its work by reviewing data from New Jersey’s Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS).  PRAMS is a joint research project of the Department of Health and Senior Services, the Bloustein Center for Survey Research at Rutgers University, and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


According to PRAMS data, insurance status and pregnancy intention are key predictors of entry into early prenatal care.  The data show that 97 percent of New Jersey mothers with an intended pregnancy and private insurance entered prenatal care in the first trimester, exceeding the national Healthy People 2010 health objective of 90 percent entry into early care.   However, fewer than 60 percent of New Jersey’s uninsured mothers with unintended pregnancies received first trimester prenatal care.


 Among insured women, there are also geographic variations in the rates of entry into early prenatal care.


“We are at a critical point in the history of our state’s health care system, the Commissioner said.  “We must make sure that prenatal care services are available to all who need them, despite the volatile health care environment we face.”         


The Task Force created three subcommittees, which are examining three issues in depth -- educating patients and the general public, examining prenatal care system capacity and identifying any barriers, and measuring program quality.  The full Task Force is meeting monthly until the report is completed.


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NOTE:    Photos of today’s Task Force meeting are available on request by calling (609) 984-7160.  Below is a list of Task Force members.




Prenatal Care Task Force Membership



Obstetrics and Gynecology

  • Francine E. Sinofsky, M.D.,  Highland Park
  • Michelle Torchia, M.D., Community Health Care, Inc., Bridgeton



  • Daniel A. Notterman, M.A., M.D., Princeton University, Princeton
  • Patricia Whitley-Williams, M.D., FAAP, UMDNJ – RWJ Medical School, New Brunswick


Obstetric and Neonatal Nursing

  • Robyn D’Oria, M.A., RNC, APN, Executive Director, Central New Jersey Maternal and Child Health Consortium, North Brunswick


Nurse Midwives

  • Shirley White Walker, CNM, FACNM, Plainfield Neighborhood Health Center, Plainfield


Registered Nurses in Prenatal Care

  • Judy Richardson, RN, VNA of  Central New Jersey, Red Bank


Family Planning

  • Phyllis Kinsler, Executive Director, Planned Parenthood of Central New Jersey, Shrewsbury



  • Firoozeh Vali, Assistant Vice President, New Jersey Hospital Association, Princeton


Primary Care

  • Kathy Grant Davis, President and CEO, New Jersey Primary Care Association, Hamilton


March of Dimes, New Jersey Chapter, Cranbury

  • Laurie Navin, Director of Program Services


Children’s Futures, Trenton

  • Melinda W. Green, Vice-President


WIC Program

  • Alyce Thomas, Perinatal Nutrition Consultant, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, Paterson


Maternal and Child Health Consortia

  • Velva Dawson, Director of Operations, Central New Jersey MCH Consortium, North Brunswick
  • Marijane Lundt, Executive Director, Gateway Northwest MCH Network, Newark
  • Mariann Moore, Executive Director, Hudson Perinatal Consortium, Inc., Jersey City
  • Ilise Zimmerman, Executive Director, Northern New Jersey MCH Consortium, Paramus
  • Kathleen O’Keefe, Acting Director, Regional Perinatal Consortium of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, Inc., Lakewood
  • Judy Donlen, RN, DNSc, J.D., Executive Director, Southern New Jersey Perinatal Cooperative, Inc., Pennsauken


State Agencies

  • Department of Health and Senior Services -- Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, Deputy Commissioner and State Epidemiologist; Celeste Andriot-Wood, Assistant Commissioner, Division of Family Health Services; and Linda Holmes, Executive Director, Office of Minority and Multicultural Health
  • Department of Human Services -- Kaye Morrow, Assistant Division Director, Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services
  • Department of Children and Families -- Keri Logosso, Director of Health Services
  • Office of the Child Advocate -- Maria McGowan, Assistant Director 





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