The Maternal Experience Survey: A Critical Tool for Patients and Healthcare Providers

Since the 1990s, the maternal mortality rate in the United States has risen.  In New Jersey, Black women are seven times more likely to die during childbirth than White women.  While infant deaths have declined in recent years, Black babies are up to three times more likely to die in their first year of life than White babies.  Despite medical advances, racial disparities in care continue to threaten the well-being of our families and communities. We must address this urgent health crisis now.

I am honored to serve as the Clinical Lead for the Essex County Maternal Experience Survey Advisory Board.  The board is comprised of community leaders and non-profit organizations including representatives from the five area birthing centers.  We are dedicated to breaking down the barriers to care that jeopardize the health, safety, and survival of Black women and infants in Essex County.

The Maternal Experience Survey for Women of Color was created by the Prematurity Prevention Initiative and the NAACP Atlantic City Black Infant and Maternal Mortality (BIMM) Task Force. The Essex County BIMM Task Force, a collaboration between the Prematurity Prevention Initiative, NAACP Newark NJ Branch, and The Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern NJ, is now implementing this survey in Essex County along with our community and hospital partners.

The survey provides the opportunity for mothers to share their birthing experience – their emotions, complications, outcomes, and an honest assessment of the treatment they received from healthcare providers.  This first-person account of the birthing experience can inform the systemic changes we need to correct biases, ensure our care is truly patient-centered, and provide equitable care for all.

The NAACP along with the county advisory boards will be working collaboratively with local hospitals and organizations to review aggregated and anonymous data to improve processes related to maternal and infant health across the state.

In my practice of Maternal Fetal Medicine and as the Director of Obstetrics at University Hospital, I have seen how collaborative work, development of new models for care, and engaging women and communities can push the needle of change.

I pledge to share this survey with my patients and encourage all hospitals, physicians, nurses, midwives, doulas, and other maternal care providers to utilize this vital tool.

It is only through working together for the best needs of our patients that we will make significant and lasting changes to improve maternal and infant mortality rates throughout Essex County.

Lisa Gittens-Williams, MD
New Jersey Medical School
Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine
Director Obstetrical Services
Rutgers New Jersey Medical School  

View the Maternal Experience Survey

The Essex County Maternal Experience Survey Advisory Board

Cherise Dawson, Co-Chair
NAACP Newark NJ Branch – Health Committee

Lavita Johnson, Co-Chair
NAACP Newark NJ Branch – Health Committee

Naome Dunnell
Community Advocate and Mom

Acenda Health/NAACP Atlantic City

Lisa Gittens-Williams, MD, Clinical Lead
Rutgers New Jersey Medical School

Christine Ivery, MPH
Family Health Initiatives

Lashawn Jemison, MSN, MBA, RN
Newark Beth Israel Medical Center & Children’s Hospital of NJ

Danica Lafortune
SPAN Advocacy – Sister to Sister Doula

Gladys Martinez, LCSW, NCTTP
University Hospital

Kaci Mial, M.Ed
Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey

Kerry Millen
Family Health Initiatives

Liliana Morales, MPH, RN
Saint Barnabas Medical Center

Sarah Muller Robbins, MPH, RN, IBCLC, ICCE
Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey

Liliana Pinete, MD, MPH
Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey

Angela Ramos, MBA, CHES
Newark Community Health Centers

Denise Serbay
Junior League of Montclair-Newark

Linda Sloan Locke, CNM, MPH, LSW, FACNM

Shirley Smith
My Kota Bear

Nikki St. Germain, MHA, CHES
Greater Newark Healthcare Coalition

Fareese Terrell
Community Advocate and Mom

Irina Ventura, MA
Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey

Mariekarl Vilceus-Talty, MA, BSN
Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey

Wendy Warren, MD
NJ Perinatal Associates

Jill Wodnick, MA, LCCE, CLC, IMH-E(III)
Community Advocate and Mom

Learn more about the Prematurity Prevention Initiative.

Getting Involved