The Rutgers School of Nursing will lead the research, education and training component of a new $75 million state initiative to improve maternal and infant care.

Rutgers will lead a consortium of state and community colleges that will collaborate with Capital Health and the Trenton Health Team to launch the Maternal and Infant Health Innovation Center. The Trenton, N.J., facility will provide clinical services for the perinatal period — from conception till a year after birth — along with social and wrap-around services, workforce development and research initiatives.

The innovation center, which is funded by the New Jersey Department of Economic Development, aims to improve perinatal health outcomes and eliminate racial disparities.

“I am delighted that Rutgers School of Nursing is leading this unprecedented collaborative venture among multiple higher education partners,” said Linda Flynn, dean of the School of Nursing, which is part of Rutgers Health. “This effort to support high-quality health care for New Jersey's new and expectant parents, develop a highly qualified and diverse perinatal workforce and create a world-class perinatal health equity research center should help create equitable health outcomes for New Jersey's mothers and babies.”

The consortium of educational institutions – which includes Mercer County Community College, Stockton University, The College of New Jersey and Thomas Edison State University – will pool expertise and resources in research, education policy, and advocacy to help make health care more equitable, expand the perinatal workforce, reduce maternal mortality and eliminate racial disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes.

The consortium will enhance existing educational offerings and develop new ones for aspiring nurses, midwives, community health workers, doulas and lactation professionals. Additionally, the consortium will develop innovative ongoing professional development programs.

“This effort to expand and diversify the existing perinatal workforce promises to improve care and outcomes for women and pregnant people in New Jersey,” said Julie Blumenfeld, the director of the Nurse-Midwifery Program and clinical assistant professor at the School of Nursing who will lead Rutgers’ efforts at the innovation center.

“Our consortium shares the vision of the N.J. Economic Development Authority—that the reduction of health inequities requires collaboration and coordination among multiple diverse organizations,” said Blumenfeld. "We look forward to working together and coordinating our efforts to maximize our effectiveness.”

In addition to providing education and training programs, Rutgers and its partner schools will use their varying research expertise and institutional infrastructures to create a world-class perinatal health equity research center. The research will examine and address perinatal health equity, health services workforce development, health economics, health policy and population health.

"Rutgers Health is proud to partner with the state to provide vital maternal and infant health care to our community through this new center,” said Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences Chancellor Brian Strom, who leads Rutgers Health. “As the State University of New Jersey, Rutgers brings significant value to this program, and we are committed to advancing maternal health equity for our community. We are honored to have been selected as the lead institution of higher education and are excited to contribute our innovative expertise to this important initiative."

The consortium’s work on education and research is just one of the innovation center’s main efforts. The New Jersey Economic Development Authority has more info on the rest of the project.