Decreasing High Rates of Black Infant Mortality in NJ
Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter, Assembly Conference Leader, explains the need for NJ to invest in healthcare to improve the high rates of black infant mortality rate.
"State of Affairs is honored to welcome our good friend Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter, a Democrat representing what area of the state? 35th District. Paterson, Northern New Jersey. And in fact you have a title in the leadership of the Democratic Party, which is? Majority Conference Leader of the New Jersey General Assembly. You've dedicated much of your life, not just in the legislature, but as a leader at a major healthcare system. You are, in fact, Vice President of Hackensack UMC Mountainside Hospital. Much of your focus is on infant mortality rates? Yes. Particularly in the black community. Five times higher than whites? Five times higher. One of the highest in the country. Just in New Jersey alone. And it's a travesty. Because? Because we, for... I will say this. Our Health Commissioner has taken a concerted effort, and our First Lady Tam... Dr. Elnahal? Dr. Elnahal. First Lady Tammy Murphy... That's right. ...has really taken this under their belt. Since the 90s we've been in the high, high ranks of infant mortality for African-American women. Five times higher. It shouldn't happen. A mother shouldn't have to worry about losing her life and the life of her child upon birth, low birth rates, and we have a sundry of issues that really fall into that, and not only as a healthcare professional, but as a Majority Conference Leader, as a Vice Chair of the Legislative Black Caucus. We really focus on this initiative. And by the way, folks who... we'll put up our website right now for an initiative we've been working on for about a year now. It's called Right From the Start NJ, focusing on infants and toddlers and those who care for them. Assemblywoman, what does the state need to do more to help protect infants and toddlers and those who care for them? Oh Steve, thank you for asking that question. We need to put money with this. So I am pleased that in the governor's proposed budget, one million dollars will be dedicated to doulas. We're talking about a relationship with healthcare professionals for this community. Excuse me for interrupting. Sure. Explain who and what doulas are. So doulas are birthing coaches for women who may not have a birthing coach, or may not know the questions to ask of their professionals, and how to talk to professionals who are caring for them during that sensitive time when they're pregnant. What questions to ask their healthcare professional? There's something that we learned, which is implicit bias As much as we teach cultural sensitivity... Right. ...in the healthcare setting, in fact we do annual trainings, there's still a language gap where African-American mothers are not being heard, whether they're professionals, whether they're in poverty, or low wage..."