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In recognition of Maternal Health Awareness Day, Planned Parenthood of Northern, Central, and Southern New Jersey visited incarcerated persons at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility to talk about the importance of maternal health education and advocacy. This event was centered around health equity in the hopes of reducing statistically high post-maternal mortality among Black communities in New Jersey.

We spoke with our very own Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Health Equity, Tara Norman, who hosted the program alongside retired community health nurse, Annette Scott; OBGYN, Dr. Suzanne Magherini; and Monmouth Medical Center, to learn more about the event and its impact.

PPNCSNJ Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Health Equity (Tara Norman) pictured speaking with an event attendee.

PPNCSNJ: In your own words, what was this event’s impact?

Tara Norman: This event was incredibly impactful in numerous ways. In addition to providing education about maternal health through the use of the My Black Health Is Beautiful curriculum, the event also allowed us to break down barriers for incarcerated individuals to access essential health care resources. Our goal was to provide them with critical tools to improve health outcomes, but most importantly, to underscore that their health matters and is indeed beautiful.

The event also served as an opportunity to recognize the remarkable contributions of the authors of the My Black Health Is Beautiful curriculum: Crystal Charley, Jaye Wilson, Dr. Dianne Browne, and Dr. Pamela Brug. The profound impact of this curriculum reflects their unwavering dedication to addressing racial disparities in Black maternal health outcomes.

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PPNCSNJ: What key topics or subjects were addressed during this event, and how were they chosen?

TN: As part of the overall discussion on self-advocacy during the event, we highlighted what to anticipate during a prenatal appointment and guided questions to ask your provider in preparation for the appointment. Additionally, we emphasized the importance of understanding intergenerational health and how our health is closely linked to that of our parents and grandparents.

These topics were chosen because they are lesson plans within the My Black Health Is Beautiful curriculum, which directly reflects the experiences of Black communities. These resources are designed to address gaps in resources that the healthcare and education systems have often failed to provide for Black communities.

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PPNCSNJ: What is a moment from the event that particularly stuck with you?

TN: An important moment from the event that resonated with me was when we discussed the curb-cut effect. Since the audience included individuals of diverse racial identities, it was crucial to illustrate how the development of resources that center Black communities ultimately enhances health outcomes for everyone.

Coined by Angela Glover, the concept of the curb-cut effect serves as a perfect example of this phenomenon. It refers to the introduction of curb cuts in sidewalks at intersections, initially intended to accommodate people in wheelchairs, but ultimately benefiting society as a whole – such as individuals pushing strollers or walking dogs.

We then connected this to the devastating reality that Black individuals encounter the greatest barriers to health – reflected across disparities in HIV rates, diabetes, heart disease, maternal mortality, and more. Therefore, by designing resources specifically tailored to meet their needs, we provide Black communities with the care they deserve while also improving health outcomes and elevating the standard of care for everyone.

Panelists interacting with one another in front of the crowd of attendees.

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