Camden County among New Jersey areas working to improve maternal health

TaRhonda Thomas Image
Wednesday, May 22, 2024
Camden County among NJ areas working to improve maternal health
Camden County among New Jersey areas working to improve maternal health

CAMDEN, New Jersey (WPVI) -- During the month of May, many organizations put a focus on maternal health.

But for a number of organizations in our area, the organizations work to improve maternal health all year round. That includes efforts that are underway in Camden to improve outcomes for moms-to-be and the communities they call home.

Raising two daughters, Anita Wemple had the benefit of having a lot of people to support her as a mother.

"I have a great supportive family," she said. "I have two children of my own so I have a village for my children."

Wemple, though, realizes not every mom has that village. It's a driving force behind her nonprofit work as president and CEO of the Community Planning and Advocacy Council.

"We connect all those resources dealing with maternal health all the way to seniors," she said of the organization's mission.

The mission to improve maternal health is one Camden County shares.

"Unfortunately, we do stand out for maternal and infant mortality rate," said Caryelle Lasher, the director of Camden County Department of Health and Human Services. "We're seeing (higher mortality rates), especially in communities of color. Some of our rates are the worst in the state."

The 6abc Data Team found that at 26.7 deaths for every 100,000 live births, the maternal death rate in New Jersey is higher than the national rate of 17.4 deaths for every 100,000 live births.

There's also a disproportionate impact by race.

According to the Camden County Department of Health and Human Services, only 57% of Black moms-to-be in Camden County were able to access prenatal care during their first trimester.

There's an effort, though, to make change. The county's health clinics play a role in trying to change maternal health outcomes by covering a wide range of needs and connecting moms to the care they need.

"We'll see women before they even know they're pregnant," said Lasher. "We're able to connect them to an OB service so she can have the prenatal care she needs."

Maternal health, though, isn't just about prenatal care.

"(The State of New Jersey has) done a Medicaid expansion to make sure women have access to postnatal care for a year after the birth," said Lasher.

Another key is mental health services and helping moms whose children have special needs.

"To ease those burdens for the families is everything. It helps them provide better care to their children," said Aldonna Kucheinsky, a public health nurse with the county's Special Child Healthcare Services.

The community and county organizations work together to relieve the burden and remove the barriers.

"All of our services are offered to our families free of charge," said Kucheinsky of her office's assistance.

The combined efforts help to build a village of support that's key not just for maternal health, but for community health.

"That's a stronger mom that will raise stronger kids, that will have a stronger community," said Wemple. "So it definitely is all connected."

For more information and links on programs and resources meant to address maternal health in New Jersey, visit:

Resources in Philadelphia can be found here: