Innovation Station Spotlight: Commonsense Childbirth
December 2017

Commonsense Childbirth is a nonprofit organization, founded by midwife Jennie Joseph in 1998, whose mission is that no one is turned away regardless of insurance status or ability to pay. Its work targets pregnant, postpartum, and interconceptional women who are at risk for a poor birth outcome or and subsequent perinatal mood disorders due to socio-economic and environmental stressors and the social determinants of health. The organization focuses on reducing racial disparities in maternal child health and have applied the evidence-based best practice model, The JJ Way, to reduce prematurity, low-birth weight, and infant mortality, while improving access to maternity care, support, and education. The JJ Way is a specific maternal child health (MCH) model that has been developed and codified by Joseph and implemented by her trained-team with consistent positive improvements for mothers and babies.

As an obstetric safety-net provider, the agency has maintained its programs by providing fee-for-service perinatal care when patients have carried Medicaid or commercial insurance and by offering low-cost or in-kind services when they are uninsured. Commonsense Childbirth is working to restore equity in health care access by implementing its “no one turned away policy,’ which allows medical and financial triage, supporting and navigating applications for Medicaid and health insurance. Adding bilingual educators addresses another community need for non-English speaking patients and increases sustainability.

This increased access to early and consistent prenatal care has reduced poor birth outcomes including prematurity and low birth weight among high-social and obstetrical risk women in the West Orange County and South Lake County areas in New Jersey. However, many women struggle during the postpartum period due to postpartum depression and lack of support or resources to deal with their stress. To meet this need, the organization began offering a postpartum depression screen, as well as access to a weekly postpartum support group, in February 2017.

Future expansion of the model utilizes the National Perinatal Task Force. The task force is designed to provide awareness, support, and training for birth professionals and community members alike who care about the persistent racial disparities that continue to plague communities. It is a virtual community of people who have a heart for women and children. It is a grassroots movement to start and grow thriving Perinatal Safe Spots in every “Materno-Toxic Area”. The taskforce consists of motivated people who have heard about the outrageous statistics and the stark racial disparities and want to see real change, really soon. People who understand that the system is broken and want to make a practical difference in health outcomes for our most at-risk mothers and babies. It is a place to share ideas and to find support. [this needs a closing statement – maybe something like “Commonsense Childbirth will be there, leading the way towards restoring equity for mothers and babies.”]