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Protecting the Unborn

by Jo Valenti, BSN, RN, Cumberland County Mental Health and Addictions Board
Statistics from the New Jersey State Health Department Assessment Data (SHAD) website ( indicate that Cumberland County residents experience poor outcomes in many areas. For instance, the health insurance coverage category reports that 12.8 percent of Cumberland County residents are uninsured, compared to 8.7 percent for the state and 10.4 percent for the country.  Lack of health insurance or limitations of health insurance can create barriers to care, which leads to poorer outcomes.
This month, we will review a critical subset of vulnerable residents—the unborn. The Cumberland County Mental Health and Addictions Board has recently partnered with the Southern NJ Perinatal Cooperative, to advance its efforts through the NJ Stillbirth Awareness Campaign ( While protecting the unborn may seem like a foregone decision, Cumberland County statistics suggest we can do more to improve current outcomes. The Cumberland County fetal mortality rate is 7.4 percent; the state rate is 6.6 percent.
Contributing to this regrettable fact is that 30 percent of pregnant women in Cumberland County receive no prenatal care in the first trimester and up to 3.5 percent have no prenatal care at all. Lack of limited prenatal care demonstrates a missed opportunity to identify and mitigate risk factors that may contribute to poor birth outcomes. Women who receive regular prenatal care can have risks identified early in their pregnancy and receive appropriate interventions to lead to a reduction of preventable stillbirth and other poor birthing and maternal health outcomes.
There are various factors that contribute to  lack of adequate prenatal care including being uninsured or underinsured, low income, lack of transportation and being undocumented. Another key factor is the limited number of health care practitioners available in Cumberland County, which reduces access to care for all residents, but especially those who are most vulnerable for additional reasons.
It is the goal of this column to increase awareness of the particular challenges facing Cumberland County residents regarding health care and access. Please visit the above websites and investigate for yourself.
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The Cumberland County Mental Health and Addictions Board actively promotes awareness of stigma and the need for public education regarding mental health and addiction. The Board meets monthly, and the public is invited to attend. Please refer to the meeting schedule on the Cumberland County website for meeting dates. The Board is also seeking new members. Interested persons should send a letter of interest and a resume to Melissa Niles, Cumberland County Human Services, 70 W. Broad St., Bridgeton, NJ 08302 or

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