New Jersey Health Department Marks National Women’s Health Week with Focus on Building on Initiatives to Improve Health Care Access, Empowering Women

New Jersey Health Department Marks National Women’s Health Week with Focus on Building on Initiatives to Improve Health Care Access, Empowering Women

 

TRENTON – With continued commitment to reproductive and maternal health, and a new Executive Director of the Office of Women’s Health, the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) is recognizing National Women’s Health Week (May 12-18) to highlight women’s health priorities.

 

This year’s theme is Empowering Women, Cultivating Health: Celebrating Voices, Wellness, and Resilience.

 

While women and men share many of the same health problems, they can affect women differently. According to the National Institutes of Health, compared to men:

·    Women are more likely to die following a heart attack.

·    Women are more likely to show signs of depression and anxiety.

·    The effects of sexually transmitted diseases can be more serious in women.

·    Osteoarthritis affects more women.

·    Women are more likely to have urinary tract problems.

 

“The health of women in New Jersey is essential to a healthy New Jersey. We honor National Women’s Health Week through increasing awareness of health issues for women including recognizing all people who can become pregnant, people who identify as women, and people who were born as women. At the Department of Health, we continue to work to expand equitable access to care and improve outcomes that help families thrive every day,” said Health Commissioner Kaitlan Baston, M.D. “As a doctor and a mother, I know how difficult it can be for women to prioritize our own health. Breast cancer, heart disease, and stroke are common serious health conditions in women that are often preventable or treatable if caught early, so it’s important to empower women with information to support making health and overall well-being a focus.”

 

New Jersey has been, and continues to be, a leader in protecting women’s reproductive health and rights. Governor Murphy’s proposed FY 2025 budget continues historic investments in reproductive health care delivery and access. Through over $30 million each year, the state family planning program provides safety-net care in every county, including access to affordable birth control, cancer screenings, and sexually transmitted infection treatment. Funding through the state family planning program and the Zero-Percent Interest Rate, One-Year Forgivable Loan Program for Family Planning Facilities Upgrades have enabled clinics to increase hours of operation, hire additional staff, bolster marketing and outreach, and expand services for patients. NJDOH also hosts New Jersey’s Reproductive Health Information Hub, which provides critical information on reproductive rights, access, and health care coverage across New Jersey. Over the past year, NJDOH also led a menstrual health equity public awareness campaign to encourage increased awareness of menstrual health and menstrual disorders (such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis), how these affect fertility and overall health, types of menstrual products, and available treatments for menstrual disorders. For more information, visit nj.gov/health/periods.

 

NJDOH continues to be a key collaborator in First Lady Tammy Murphy’s Nurture NJ initiatives to improve maternal health outcomes, eliminate maternal and infant mortality disparities, and make New Jersey the safest place to give birth and raise a family. Earlier this year, NJDOH released the fifth annual New Jersey Report Card of Hospital Maternity Care, the first of its kind in the nation and which outlines key metrics on maternal health care that empower moms and families with user-friendly, important information to guide their decisions. The Commissioner of Health serves on the Board of the newly formed Maternal and Infant Health Innovation Authority, where the Department’s maternal health data and programs inform strategic action across state government and with partners in the community.

 

The latest New Jersey Maternal Mortality Review Committee reports finds that cardiovascular conditions were a leading cause of preventable pregnancy-related deaths. Across the lifespan, heart disease and cancer are among the leading causes of death among women, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. NJDOH encourages women to get regular check-ups, screenings and other preventative measures. Women who are uninsured or underinsured should check with their local federally qualified health center for preventative care and treatment.

 

The Department also has made great strides in modernizing the New Jersey Women, Infants, and Children or WIC program, which provides access to nutritious foods for about 240,000 at-risk pregnant, breastfeeding, and post-partum people and children in New Jersey annually. In FY 2025, NJDOH is further reducing barriers to healthy food by enhancing the state’s eWIC program with over $700,000 in federal funds to include online shopping and a proposed $2.9 million new state investment to cover WIC grocery delivery fees – with the goal of making New Jersey the first state in the nation to fund food delivery for online orders, further removing barriers to health such as transportation, time, and childcare.

 

Through the Doula Learning Collaborative, NJDOH is working to train and increase the workforce of community doulas and community health workers to support families throughout pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Since 2018, the Department has trained 264 doulas in New Jersey who have supported 655 births. Importantly, in 2023, there was an increase of 58.6% in doulas enrolled in New Jersey FamilyCare for reimbursement through Medicaid.

 

Iris Jones recently joined the NJDOH as Executive Director for the Office of Women’s Health to help lead strategies and priorities in addressing the health needs of women throughout their life spans and to continue many of New Jersey’s innovative initiatives. Prior to joining NJDOH, she worked at Cooper University Healthcare where she integrated inclusive, behavioral health treatment into traditional health care service delivery.

 

“Having spent most of my career providing direct services to New Jersey’s most vulnerable women, I understand the need for evidence-based, integrated health care that shifts from traditional disease management models to innovative models of wellness, inclusivity, and whole person health care,” said Jones. “Improving the health of New Jersey’s women and reducing their health disparities means focusing on health issues across the lifespan and integrating them into traditional health care service delivery, including issues of mental health, social determinants of health, and substance use.”

 

As part of National Women’s Health Week, NJDOH also will be sharing key messaging on its social media to boost awareness using the hashtag #NWHW.

 

 

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