On Second Annual Maternal Health Awareness Day in New Jersey, Hackensack Meridian Health Announces Formation of Maternal Health Task Force

January 23, 2019

Task force is a blue-ribbon panel of internal and external experts dedicated to improving maternal health outcomes

Hackensack Meridian Health, New Jersey’s largest health network, today announced the formation of a Maternal Health Task Force, a blue-ribbon panel of internal and external experts, dedicated to improving maternal health outcomes.

“At Hackensack Meridian Health, we always put our patients first, aim to provide the highest quality care and deliver the best patient experience,” said Robert C. Garrett, CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health. “New Jersey has the fifth highest maternal death rate in the country, which is unacceptable. Our mothers deserve better. As New Jersey’s largest health network, Hackensack Meridian Health is dedicated to changing that outcome in New Jersey. Our newly formed Maternal Health Task Force will help address maternal health issues.”

The Maternal Health Task Force will build upon Hackensack Meridian Health’s work to improve maternal health and raise awareness in the communities it serves, as well as foster collaboration with other health providers and legislators across the state. The task force will ensure that the health network’s goals for success are aligned among clinician team members, hospital leaders and network executives. Members are leading maternal health experts from across New Jersey including:

  • Former First Lady Mary Jo Codey, Co-chair
  • Kathy Ellis, Co-chair and Hackensack Meridian Health Board Trustee
  • Manuel Alvarez, M.D., Chair OB/GYN, Hackensack University Medical Center
  • Carol Barsky, M.D., Hackensack Meridian Health Executive Vice President, Chief Quality Officer
  • Michael Kleiman, D.M.D., Hackensack Meridian Health Board Trustee
  • Andrew Rubenstein, M.D., Section Chief of Labor & Delivery, Hackensack University Medical Center
  • Andria Schneiderman, Hackensack Meridian Health Hospital Corporate Board Trustee

Every day, two women on average die in the United States following childbirth and an additional 1,000 women are affected every week by severe complications during delivery. The Maternal Health Task Force will oversee all of network’s efforts to improve maternal health. Hackensack Meridian Health is declaring, along with New Jersey’s First Lady Tammy Murphy, that these outcomes are unacceptable. Hackensack Meridian Health will work tirelessly to make New Jersey the safest state in the nation to have a baby.

“New Jersey is one of the best states in the nation to live in and is often on the forefront of national issues. That is why it is imperative that we improve maternal health in our great state,” said Maternal Health Task Force Co-Chair and former First Lady Mary Jo Codey. “I am proud to serve as co-chair on Hackensack Meridian Health’s Maternal Health Task Force to address this important issue, and I look forward to working with leading experts across the state to see how New Jersey can be a national leader on improving maternal health.”

“As New Jersey marks the second annual Maternal Health Awareness Day, Hackensack Meridian Health has made a commitment to providing the best care for our patients and mothers,” said Maternal Health Task Force Co-Chair Kathy Ellis, Hackensack Meridian Health board trustee. “The Maternal Health Task Force will examine best practices and find solutions to improve maternal outcomes across the communities we serve.”

The announcement of the task force was made on January 23, the State of New Jersey’s second observance of Maternal Health Awareness Day – the first state in the nation to designate a day focused on maternal health. “I want to thank Governor Phil Murphy, First Lady Tammy Murphy and Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal’s leadership for shining a light on this critical issue to better understand what we can do as a community to raise awareness about maternal health and safety,” said Garrett.

“Hackensack Meridian Health is committed to ongoing collaboration with First Lady Tammy Murphy of New Jersey and the Department of Health,” said Maternal Health Task Force member Carol Barsky, M.D., Hackensack Meridian Health executive vice president, chief quality officer. “It is an honor to improve maternal health care, to eliminate disparities. We are committed to reducing maternal mortality, maternal complications and racial disparity in material health outcomes.”

At least half of maternal deaths are preventable. Hackensack Meridian Health is on the forefront of addressing maternal health:

  • After a review of C-section rates and adopting a multidisciplinary approach, the network successfully decreased the number of C-sections since 2016. In one year, Hackensack University Medical Center reduced its C-section rate by eight percent and is committed to reaching the Healthy People 2020 goal this year
  • Hackensack Meridian Health is working with the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology to engage the nation’s leading experts in maternal health and labor.
  • Hackensack Meridian Health is working with the New Jersey Perinatal Collaborative and participated in the first annual 2018 Maternal Health & Perinatal Safety Symposium
  • Hackensack Meridian Health hosted a free New Jersey’s Maternal Health Awareness Day community event at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. The event was dedicated to advancing maternal health and safety to physicians, nurses, lactation consultants, and doulas, among other community health care workers, who work with pregnant and post-partum women

Hackensack Meridian Health is deeply committed to saving lives in New Jersey. Every Woman. Every Hospital. Every Time.


Hackensack Meridian Health is a leading not-for-profit health care organization that is the largest, most comprehensive and truly integrated health care network in New Jersey, offering a complete range of medical services, innovative research and life-enhancing care.

Hackensack Meridian Health comprises 17 hospitals from Bergen to Ocean counties, which includes three academic medical centers – Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, JFK Medical Center in Edison; two children’s hospitals – Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital in Hackensack, K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital in Neptune; nine community hospitals – Ocean Medical Center in Brick, Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, Mountainside Medical Center in Montclair, Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, Raritan Bay Medical Center in Perth Amboy, Southern Ocean Medical Center in Manahawkin, Bayshore Medical Center in Holmdel, Raritan Bay Medical Center in Old Bridge, and Pascack Valley Medical Center in Westwood; and two rehabilitation hospitals – JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute in Edison and Shore Rehabilitation Institute in Brick; and a behavioral health hospital, Carrier Clinic in Belle Mead.

Additionally, the network has more than 500 patient care locations throughout the state which include ambulatory care centers, surgery centers, home health services, long-term care and assisted living communities, ambulance services, lifesaving air medical transportation, fitness and wellness centers, rehabilitation centers, urgent care centers and physician practice locations. Hackensack Meridian Health has 33,000 team members, and 6,500 physicians and is a distinguished leader in health care philanthropy, committed to the health and well-being of the communities it serves.

The network’s notable distinctions include having four hospitals among the top 10 in New Jersey by U.S. News and World Report. Other honors include consistently achieving Magnet® recognition for nursing excellence from the American Nurses Credentialing Center and Top 150 Places to Work in Healthcare/2018 by Becker’s Healthcare.

Hackensack Meridian Health partnered with Seton Hall University to launch the only private medical school in New Jersey – Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University. Additionally, the network partnered with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer to find more cures for cancer faster while ensuring that patients have access to the highest quality, most individualized cancer care when and where they need it.

Hackensack Meridian Health is a member of AllSpire Health Partners, an interstate consortium of leading health systems, to focus on the sharing of best practices in clinical care and achieving efficiencies.

For additional information, please visit www.HackensackMeridianHealth.org