By: Jenny Wagner
Burlington County Times, Staff Writer
Southern Jersey Family Medical Centers hosts the free event to provide pregnant women and moms of newborns with access to quality care, and to ensure they have information and resources “all babies have an equal chance to live and thrive,” officials said.
BURLINGTON CITY — At just 1 month old, Ares Morris is an eater and a sleeper and has already put himself on a schedule, according to his mom, Amani Morris.
The Burlington City resident said her doctor provided her with great care and lots of information during her pregnancy and after her son was born. But she was excited to learn more to pass along to her husband and other new moms during a community baby shower Friday at Tabernacle Baptist Church.
“It’s very helpful,” she said. “There’s a lot of people who are not fortunate enough to have clinics like this, and to come out and to get information.”
Morris was referring to Southern Jersey Family Medical Centers, which hosts the free event to provide pregnant women and moms of newborns with access to quality care, and to ensure they have information and resources they need so “all babies have an equal chance to live and thrive,” officials said.
“It’s truly a one-stop shop for local resources, and it’s also a fun event to celebrate the new life they are bringing into the world,” said Linda Flake, president and CEO of SJFMC.
The shower featured speakers from SJFMC’s women’s health services, UnitedHealthcare and the Burlington County Sheriff’s Department’s car seat safety program, and information tables where women could connect with local organizations and agencies. Women also had a chance to win baby gear including strollers, car seats, clothes and more.
“I think it’s nice that Burlington County or pregnant women have the chance to get the help and care they need,” said Jeanie Rossi, of Lumberton, whose daughter, Olivia, is due to arrive in two weeks. “I think it’s nice that there’s people here trying to help us.”
Funding for the event came from the Improving Pregnancy Outcomes grant through the New Jersey Department of Health, which also recently announced it will award $4.3 million to up to 12 grantees statewide to intensify efforts to reduce disparities in birth outcomes and black infant mortality.
State data shows the mortality rate for black infants is more than three times that of white infants.
“We want to try a different approach because key maternal and child health indicators have not improved over decades in the state, and significant racial and ethnic disparities persist,” health department Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal said in an announcement about the funding.
Flake said SJFMC is working to reduce the disparities by ensuring women have early access to prenatal care that includes information and resources like those offered at the shower, as well as postpartum care, which soon will follow new recommendations that women visit their OB/GYN within the first three weeks after delivery, rather than six.
“It is a very difficult question to answer,” Flake said when asked about what is contributing to the disparity. “There are many factors, but one cannot ignore the role racism plays in these disparities. Societal stressors that are a part of life for an African-American woman have a detrimental impact on their lives and the lives of their infants.”