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A ‘lost in translation’ moment as a new immigrant inspired Elisabete Miranda to launch CQ fluency

Elisabete Miranda is the President and CEO of CQ fluency— a translation and language services company specializing in cultural adaptation with a focus in healthcare and the life sciences. 

CQ fluency was born from Elisabete’s own experiences navigating the healthcare system through language barriers when she first immigrated to the U.S. in 1994. A serial-entrepreneur, Elisabete owned twelve small businesses at different periods of time in Brazil. Eventually, she and her family decided to pack up and move to the “land of opportunity.” 

“We arrived in the U.S. with very little money, not speaking one word of English, and the hope of providing a better life for our family,” said Elisabete. 

The biggest challenge they soon faced was not only the language barrier but the cultural differences, especially in healthcare spaces. 

She experienced a literal “lost in translation” situation when her six-year-old daughter received a false positive tuberculosis diagnosis. Due to a lack of cultural knowledge, the school nurse did not know that in Brazil children are vaccinated against tuberculosis. Luckily, Elisabete found a physician who luckily understood the family’s cultural profile and the situation was resolved. However, had her daughter been given treatment for tuberculosis, the remains of the vaccine could easily have been reactivated, infecting her with the very thing they were trying to cure. 

This situation was an eye-opener for Elisabete on the challenges people face in the healthcare system when there is a cultural and language barrier. This experience is what ultimately inspired CQ fluency’s focus on healthcare. 

Today, CQ fluency is a purpose-driven, certified woman-and minority-owned and operated, award-winning company with global operations servicing Fortune 500 companies. CQ fluency partners with the world’s leading life science and healthcare organizations to supply culturally relevant translation solutions in over 170 languages.

 CQ fluency nimbly responds with leveraging the best platforms and harmonizing them to work well together for a truly customized language tech stack for each client. This focus on customized language technology is what has helped drive their growth.

CQ Fluency

Elisabete shares the story of CQ fluency’s origins and the ‘lost in translation’ moment that sparked the business. (Photo courtesy Elisabete Miranda)

We are on a mission to improve lives by leveraging Cultural Intelligence (CQ) by translating meaning and feeling to cultivate real human connections that ultimately improve health outcomes,” said Elisabete. 

Being an underdog and following your heart as a Latina entrepreneur

As a woman-and-minority-owned company, CQ fluency is ‘people-centric’ and passionate about diversity and inclusion. Elisabete attributes the strength and success of the company to their people. 

“We exist to improve lives, every life we touch – our people, clients, vendors, and partners, this is the strength that drives us to do what we do every day. You cannot grow a company alone.  I hold myself to the same standards to which I hold our people, and there is not a single thing that I would ask them to do that I wouldn’t do myself,” she said. 

The diversity and inclusiveness of our people contributes to our success. I bring my true self to work every day and encourage our team to do the same.” 

Elisabete’s true self is one who is passionate, unconventional, and a bit of an underdog. Working since the age of twelve, Elisabete developed an incredible work ethic early on. After immigrating to the U.S. she quickly learned English and finished her Business Degree. Along every step of the way, Elisabete has pushed past obstacles and succeeded. She believes that hard work, persistence, and passion are the keys to success. 

“It’s less about the eagerness to achieve success and more about the commitment to serve that resulted in success. I always want to be the best I can be so it was also very important to me to focus time on my own personal development. You can’t grow a company if you don’t grow yourself.” 

While being an ‘underdog’ against competition continues to be a challenge at times, Elisabete’s unconventional approaches have often led her to triumph over competitors. 

“For me, it’s more important to follow my heart and be true to myself.” (Photo courtesy Elisabete Miranda)

“It’s not that I don’t know the traditional way of doing business, it’s just that sometimes I decide not to follow it. For me, it’s more important to follow my heart and be true to myself,” said Elisabete. “I believe that we are ‘one person,’ professionally and personally. I know that suggesting you lead with your heart might sound crazy to some, but against all odds I can say that I have achieved success, and it worked for me.” 

Recently, CQ fluency had a request for proposal (RFP) opportunity, but lacked some of the global presence the client required. To increase their chances of success, they partnered with one of the largest translation companies in the world. Despite providing a very solid response to the RFP, they were initially eliminated and told they would not be moving on to the presentation phase of the process. However, Elisabete followed her heart and took the unconventional approach. 

“You can ask anyone that knows me, one of my favorite sayings is ‘you don’t get what you don’t ask for,’ so we politely asked them to please reconsider to at least allow us to present,” said Elisabete. “Next thing we knew, we were given a date and were among one of the three finalists.” 

Up against two of the largest translation companies, Elisabete and her team were once again the underdogs. Still, they found a unique way to stand out. What really set them apart was their ability to truly listen to the needs of the client. 

“We asked the right questions and clarified information they were looking for during the presentation, and in the end-that is what won us the business,” said Elisabete. “Business is not always about the money. This client for sure will not be our largest but is one we will be most proud to serve as they share our mission of improving lives especially for the most underserved populations in the world.”

You might be interested: Tania Molina, the architect who left her career for her chocolate dream

“Learning to think big and be bold were catalysts to my success” 

With hard work, persistence, and passion Elisabete has grown her business into an award-winning global company. Her story is an inspiration to aspiring entrepreneurs everywhere that you too can follow your heart and make your business a reality. 

Elisabete Miranda

From underdog to award-winning global company, Elisabete Miranda followed her heart to success. (Photo courtesy Elisabete Miranda)

“Being a woman and a business owner is not easy and many women think they can’t have it all, but that is false! You absolutely can have it all if you surround yourself with the right support system of people who have your best interest at heart and want to see you succeed,” Elisabete advised.

Organizations that sponsor and promote women-owned businesses, such as NMSDC, WBENC, EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women, DA4S, and even Latinas in Business, are great places for women entrepreneurs to get started and find like-minded women.

“I love the concept ‘You can’t be what you can’t see.’ Getting involved in those organizations solved that for me – I met plenty of successful women who became my role models and some of my friends,” Elisabete shared. 

Lastly, Elisabete encourages aspiring women entrepreneurs to step outside of your comfort zone. 

 “Learning to think big and be bold were catalysts that converted the hard work, persistence, and passion to my success as an entrepreneur!  Henry Ford said: ‘Whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re right!’ – just believe you got this, because you most certainly do!”

Gov. Phil Murphy awards $4 million in grant funding to community organizations assisting residents in health insurance enrollment

Navigator organizations to provide assistance to uninsured and underserved NJ residents during the upcoming ACA Open Enrollment Period and year-round. 

Governor Phil Murphy and Department of Banking and Insurance (DOBI) Commissioner Marlene Caride recently announced the award of nearly $4 million in grant funding for community organizations to serve as state Navigators. These organizations will provide free outreach, education, and enrollment assistance to residents shopping for health insurance during the Affordable Care Act Open Enrollment Period. Open Enrollment at Get Covered New Jersey, the state’s official health insurance marketplace, begins on November 1st.  

The administration is increasing its investment in Navigators this year by nearly half a million dollars, and expanding the number of awardees, to help consumers enroll in quality, affordable health insurance. 

“Since day one, our administration has fought to improve access to health insurance based on our belief that health care is a fundamental right,” said Governor Murphy. “With this investment, we will expand the network of Navigators in our state and ensure that residents who need health insurance can get the help they need to obtain the coverage and care they deserve.” 

Get healthcare assistance through Get Covered NJ 

Get Covered New Jersey is the state’s official health insurance marketplace. Established by law on June 28, 2019 by Governor Phil Murphy, the marketplace is part of the state’s work to improve access to healthcare coverage for NJ residents and build up the progress made through the Affordable Care Act. 

NJ Diver's licenses

Governor of New Jersey Phil Murphy established the state’s official health insurance marketplace, GetCoveredNJ in 2019.

GetCoveredNJ is focused on increasing access to affordable, high-quality health insurance for residents of New Jersey. The marketplace is where individuals and families can easily shop for and buy health coverage, and the only place to receive financial help. You can use GetCoveredNJ to compare health plans and calculate costs, and to choose the plan that works best for you and your family. It is the only place you will be able to apply for financial help to lower your monthly insurance premium and out-of-pocket costs. Through GetCoveredNJ you may also find out if you might qualify for free or low-cost health insurance through New Jersey’s publicly funded health insurance program, NJ FamilyCare.

During the inaugural GetCoveredNJ Open Enrollment Period, enrollment increased by nearly 10 percent over the previous open enrollment. The upcoming Open Enrollment Period at Get Covered New Jersey will run from November 1, 2021 to January 31, 2022, and is the only time during the year residents without coverage through an employer or other program can enroll in health insurance, unless they have a major life event.

With the GetCoveredNJ marketplace, New Jersey can also have a longer Open Enrollment Period and establish Special Enrollment Periods in order to respond to the needs of its residents. For the 2021 plan year, Open Enrollment started November 1, 2020 and ended January 31, 2021. A COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period is now in effect.

GetCoveredNJ allows the state to improve access to healthcare by investing in more outreach and trained experts to provide enrollment help within the community. By continuing to strengthen these Navigator organizations, more residents will have a chance to attain healthcare and assistance throughout the application process. 

“Navigators are an important part of reaching the state’s uninsured residents and ensuring they have access to quality, affordable health coverage and available financial help in their own community. With expanded state and federal financial help available in 2022, we want to ensure as many residents as possible take advantage of low-cost health coverage that is available,” said Commissioner Marlene Caride. “We are excited to continue to expand our network of community organizations providing free, unbiased enrollment assistance to residents. We look forward to working with our community partners as we work to get New Jersey residents covered this Open Enrollment Period and throughout the year.”

Comprehensive list of Navigator organizations  

A total of 18 organizations will be funded for the 2021-2022 year to serve as Navigators to support enrollment assistance in the State-Based Marketplace, expanded from 16 organizations awarded funding last year. All of the organizations serving as Navigators will have the ability to assist residents in-person and remotely. 

A total of $3.9 million will be awarded for the 2021-2022 year, compared to $3.5 million awarded in the 2020-2021 grant year. Navigator grants will support the work of organizations that conduct public education activities and offer free and impartial assistance to consumers to shop for and enroll in coverage on the marketplace, and help them apply for financial help. Grantee activities will include outreach and education year-round for 2022 coverage, including in advance of and during the Open Enrollment Period.

Where to find Navigator Organizations: 

AtlantiCare | Contact: 888-569-1000

Resources

  • LGBTQ health services
  • LifeCenter Fitness
  • Community Program:
    • Healthy Children
    • Healing hearts

Center For Family Services inc. | Contact: 877.922.2377 or access@centerffs.org

Resources

  • NJ COVID
  • Resources for Managing Traumatic Stress
  • Sesame Street in Communities 
  • Resources For Parents and Caregivers
  • Food Access
  • Financial Resources

Family Resource Network | Contact: 800-372-6510, Fax: (609) 392-5621

Resources: 

  • Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Individual Support 
  • Increase Accessibility
  • Home Independence
  • Scholarship Programs
  • Training & In-service Self Advocacy Training
  • Vocational Services
  • After-School Program
  • Network Support Services

Foodbank of Monmouth & Ocean County Fulfill | Contact: 732-918-26000 or main@fulfillnj.org

Resources: 

  • Tax refund Assistance
  • Providing Food
  • Kids Feeding Program
  • Culinary Training
  • Mobile Pantries
  • Affordable Healthcare

Health Research and Educational Trust of New Jersey | Contact: 609-275-4000 

Resources: 

  • ACCME Academy-find course, resources, support tools, and a community of
  • practice. 
  • Advancing Social Justice Resources
  • Educational Design Resources
  • Research Opportunities

HOPES Community-action Partnership Incorporated | Contact: 855-654-6737

Resources: 

  • Infant Head start Program
  • Adult Financial Literacy Workshop
  • Seniors Assisted
  • Transportation Program

Lakewood Resource and Referral Center | Contact: 732-942-9292

Resources: 

  • Affordable Housing
  • assistance
  • Community Education
  • Vaccination awareness

New jersey Citizen Action Educational Fund | Contact: 973-643-8800

Resources: 

  • Free Tax Preparation
  • Financial Coaching
  • Fair Houses Services
  • Consumer’s education

New Jersey Shares | Contact: 609-883-1626 or info@njshares.com

Resources: 

  • NJ Shares Energy Grant
  • Municipal Water Newark & Parsippany- Troy Hills
  • Aqua Aid Program
  • Verizon NJ communications
  • Lifeline Program

Newark Community Health Centers Inc | Contact:  800-994-6242

Resources: 

  • Women’s Health Program
  • Dental Program
  • Behavioral Health Program
  • Specialty Services
  • Pediatric Program

North Hudson Community Action Corporation | Contact: 201-210-0200

Resources: 

  • Program administration
  • Pregnant Woman
  • Parent Family Community
  • engagement
  • Educational Program

Planned Parenthood of Northern, Central and southern New Jersey Inc. | Contact: 800-230-7526

Resources: 

  • Free STD testing
  • HIV Testing and Counseling
  • Cancer Screening
  • Abortion

Southern Jersey Family Medical Centers Inc. | Contact:  609-567-0200

Resources: 

  • Behavioral Health
  • Migrant Health
  • Patient Support Services
  • Women’s Health care

St. James Health Inc. | Contact:  973-789-8111

Resources: 

  • Family Planning
  • Geriatrics
  • Prevention, screening
  • Pharmacy Services
  • Social Work
  • Sports Medicine

The Oranges ACA Navigator Project Inc. | Contact: 973-500-6031

Resources: 

  • NJ Family Care Covered Services
  • Doctor Visits
  • Eyeglasses
  • Prescriptions
  • Mental Health Services
  • Immunizations 

University Hospital | Contact:  (973) 972-4300

Resources: 

  • Specialized Services
  • Diversity & Inclusion
  • LGBTQ training resources
  • Billing and Financial Counseling

Urban League of Hudson County | Contact:  201-451-8888

Resources: 

  • Affordable Housing & Community development
  • After school Computer learning
  • Child & Adult Care food program
  • Child Care
  • CEO Program

Zufall Health Center | Contact: 973-328-9100 or info@zufallhealth.org

Resources:

  • Covid Testing/ Info
  • Community Programs
  • Outreach Programs
  • Dental Services
  • Patient Support

Enrollment for 2021 coverage remains open through the end of the year through the COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period. Additionally, residents who qualify for NJ FamilyCare (New Jersey’s Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program) can enroll year-round. More information on health insurance options can be found at GetCovered.NJ.gov

How translation services can help combat human trafficking

Translation services are a crucial tool for healthcare professionals in identifying and aiding victims of human trafficking. 

Healthcare providers may not realize they are a crucial partner in combating and preventing human trafficking, particularly during and after emergency events. Human trafficking affects every community in the United States across age, gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic backgrounds. It is a market-driven criminal industry that is based on the principles of supply and demand, like drugs or arms trafficking. In the United States alone, 50,000 persons are trafficked into the country every year, and there are approximately 400,000 domestic minors involved in trafficking. 

Health care providers are often the only professionals to interact with trafficking victims who are still in captivity. According to the Polaris Project, up to 88% of trafficking victims access health care during their trafficking situation. Health care providers are in a unique position to identify victims of trafficking and provide aid. 

unida translation, translation services,Below is an article from Latinas in Business Member, Ivana Sedia’s blog on how translation services can help healthcare professionals combat human trafficking. Ivana is the CEO and founder of Unida Translations, a translation company that delivers both spoken and written word translation services in over 125 languages for projects in the certified, legal, government, medical, and technical fields. 

You might be interested: Ivana Sedia is helping people connect and transcend borders through language translation services

help, victim, human trafficking

Many victims do not speak English, which makes translation services all the more  crucial. (Photo by MART PRODUCTION from Pexels)

How Translation Services Can Help Healthcare Professionals Combat Human Trafficking

John, a 41-year-old male is brought to your walk-in clinic by his friend because he’s having trouble walking due to a nasty rash on his foot. Jane, a 19-year-old female arrives at your walk-in clinic about an hour later. She is brought in by her mother because Jane is suffering from intense stomach pain. Is John a patient or a victim of human trafficking? Is Jane a patient or another victim of human trafficking? There’s a decent chance that either or both are actually victims of human trafficking.

The good news is that your organization can actually do something to combat human trafficking. Did you know human trafficking is currently an extensive form of slavery throughout the United States? Victims of human trafficking can be of any gender, race, religion, or nationality. Human trafficking includes domestic labor, industrial labor, and farm labor. It also includes sex labor. In fact, over 85% of human trafficking victims in the United States are involved in the sex trade.

For many victims, the only opportunity to find help is when they see a healthcare professional. (Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels)

For many of these victims, the only opportunity to find help is when they see a healthcare professional. In essence, health care providers are often the only professionals to interact with trafficking victims who are still in captivity. The expert assessment and interview skills of providers contribute to their readiness to identify victims of trafficking. However, a great deal of the human trafficking victims do not speak English. That means your organization will need the help of a professional translation service to discover if the patient is truly a victim of human trafficking.

Effective communication between a patient and a healthcare professional is a much-needed tool. In fact, it can make the difference between helping free the victim or simply watching them walk out the door with their captor. If the patient has a companion who refuses to leave the examination room it’s a key red flag that something is wrong. If the companion insists on translating for the patient it’s another red flag that the patient may be a victim of human trafficking.

This is also a key area where a professional translation service can help. If the patient speaks a language that nobody else in the clinic speaks, the professional translation service can determine whether or not the patient’s companion is actually telling the truth. Ultimately, if the companion attempts to control the information during the examination, the patient may very well be a victim of human trafficking. Effective translation is the critical element to discovering that.


This article was originally published on Unida Translation’s blog.

Health care bill expands Medi-Cal to undocumented elder immigrants age 50+

Health care trailer bill expands full-scope Medi-Cal to approximately 235,000 undocumented immigrants age 50 and older. 

At a health clinic in Fresno County on Tuesday, Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation making California the first state in the nation to expand full-scope Medicaid eligibility to low-income adults 50 years of age or older, regardless of immigration status – a major milestone in the state’s progress toward universal health coverage.

With the rise of the COVID-19 Delta variant and the prevalence of health disparities among low-income and minority communities, access to health care coverage for low-income, undocumented immigrants is crucial at this time. 

The new bill, AB 133, will make bold changes toward a more equitable and prevention-focused approach to health care through expanded behavioral health initiatives supporting California youth and people with severe behavioral health challenges, including those experiencing homelessness; extending Medi-Cal eligibility for postpartum individuals; supporting continued telehealth flexibilities; and advancing the state’s innovative CalAIM initiative.

Medi-Cal, Governor Newsom,

At Fresno health clinic, Governor Newsom signs health care trailer bill expanding Medi-Cal to undocumented immigrants age 50 and over. (Photo source: gov.ca.gov)

“We’re investing California’s historic surplus to accomplish transformative changes we’ve long dreamed of – including this historic Medi-Cal expansion to ensure thousands of older undocumented Californians, many of whom have been serving on the front lines of the pandemic, can access critical health care services,” said Governor Newsom. “I thank the Legislature for its steadfast partnership to bring California closer to universal health care coverage and advance comprehensive initiatives to ensure California’s communities come back from the pandemic stronger and healthier than before.”

Medi-Cal becomes the most inclusive health coverage for vulnerable persons in the country

Under AB 133, approximately 235,000 Californians aged 50 years and older are newly eligible for Medi-Cal, including preventive services, long-term care, and In-Home Supportive Services. 

In 2016, California extended Medi-Cal to undocumented children, and in 2019, California became the first state to extend Medi-Cal coverage to all eligible undocumented young adults up to the age of 26. With this newest expansion, the state has the most inclusive health coverage for vulnerable persons in the country covering all persons regardless of immigration status, except those aged 26-49.

AB 133 will also extend the postpartum care period. (Photo by Aditya Romansa on Unsplash)

Additionally, AB 133 also extends the Medi-Cal postpartum care period from 60 days to 12 months without requiring a mental health diagnosis, including for eligible undocumented Californians.

Further benefits and expansions under the new bill 

Governor Newsom signed the legislation on Tuesday at a Clinica Sierra Vista location in Fresno. During his visit, the Governor highlighted the state’s multi-pronged strategy to reach communities with low vaccination rates and the first-in-the-nation measures announced yesterday to require all state workers and workers in health care and high-risk congregate settings to either show proof of full vaccination or be tested at least once per week. Local governments and businesses are encouraged to adopt similar measures amid the growing threat of the Delta variant.

You might be interested: How to stay protected from quick-spreading COVID-19 Delta variant 

Changing the life trajectory of children and youth in California, the health care trailer bill creates a prevention-focused behavioral health system in which all Californians age 25 and younger are supported and routinely screened for emerging and existing behavioral health needs – enabling them to grow up healthier, both physically and mentally. The initiative includes the creation of a statewide portal to connect young people with telehealth visits.

AB 133 implements an important component of the California Comeback Plan’s $12 billion homelessness package, creating the Behavioral Health Continuum Infrastructure Program at the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) to expand treatment and housing options for all Californians, including people experiencing homelessness who struggle with the most acute behavioral health needs. AB 133 implements the Plan’s $2.2 billion investment for DHCS to provide competitive grants to local governments to construct, acquire and rehabilitate real estate assets or to invest in mobile crisis infrastructure to expand the community continuum of behavioral health treatment resources. The Plan’s total investments in this space constitute the biggest expansion in decades for clinically enhanced behavioral health housing.

How care for her community lead Yolanda Evgeniou to launch a successful business

Yolanda Evgeniou is the owner of Paraprofessional Health Careers, and provides curriculum, course materials, and is the instructor for non-credit programs for individuals striving to enter Allied Health fields. For over 20 years she has worked as an educator in her community, helping individuals achieve their career goals and dreams. 

Paraprofessional Health, educator

Yolanda Evgeniou, Paraprofessional Health educator and author. (Photo courtesy Yolanda Evgeniou)

How care for her community lead to launching a successful business

Yolanda began her business in 1999 when she saw that there was a need for affordable education and training in the Paraprofessional Health field. 

“I decided to start certificate programs because many people that I had come to meet could not afford college and were struggling to pay bills or even provide food for their families,” says Yolanda. “I knew that training them in ‘Medical Tech’ programs would lead them to employment and certification costs less money and provides a greater return on investment!” 

Born in Newark, New Jersey to a humble family, Yolanda knew what it was like to struggle. She worked not one, not two, but three jobs just to start her business. She did not have the advantages of money starting out, but she worked hard to make her dreams a reality because she wanted to help others.

On her career journey, Yolanda has faced many obstacles as well. From humble beginnings and struggling to access capital to facing racism and discrimination. Many companies also stole her ideas, profiting off her, and this was a very painful experience. But through it all, Yolanda never gave up. Her intentions and desire to help others were always selfless and rooted in her deep love and care for her community. 

Yolanda has a big heart. As an educator and community member she understands the struggles people face and always strives to help wherever she can.  

Owner of Paraprofessional Health Careers, Yolanda provides curriculum, course materials, and on-site training for certificate programs. (Photo courtesy Yolanda Evgeniou)

“I truly care about the community,” she says. “Many times I would train students for free and help place them in doctor’s offices or hospitals. I am simply a humble lady that understands struggles in communities.” 

Now, after over 20 years, Yolanda’s curriculum has helped countless individuals start their careers in the Paraprofessional Health field. The curriculum awards certificates in the areas of: Medical Assistant, Patient Care Technician, Phlebotomy Technician, and Medical Administration. 

Paraprofessional Health Careers also provides on-site training and job placement and is partnered with the American Medical Certification Association (AMCA).

“Believe you have the right to become anything!”

In addition to her work as a healthcare professional and educator, Yolanda also writes children’s books in her spare time. She enjoys telling fun, educational stories with a spark of magic! 

Her first book, Gavin and The Moon, explores the topic of Cultural Diversity for children. As someone who has faced racism and discrimination, Yolanda knows just how painful it can be. The story teaches children universal acceptance of each other’s race, religion, and cultures by showing how the Moon’s peaceful glow shines the same to all of us across the world. To the Moon we are all equal. 

You might be interested: Latina activist and educator Maria Santiago-Valentin advocates for classroom inclusion

This lesson is one that Yolanda carries with her everyday.  

Yolanda’s latest book, Liam Takes Grandma to Space.

She believes reading to children about different cultures, races, and even gender identities can open their minds and hearts, teaching them to be kind, accepting, and empathetic people. 

Yolanda’s latest book, Liam Takes Grandma to Space, follows the exciting adventure of Liam and his grandma as they float across space and discover the eight planets that orbit around the sun. This educational story teaches children about the wonders of outer-space in a fun, colorful tale.

In all her endeavors, Yolanda strives to educate and guide young minds on their journeys through life, whether that be career training for future healthcare professionals or guiding young children across the globe and through the stars with imaginative stories. As a true educator, her goal is to help her students achieve their dreams and guide them toward their goals. 

“My favorite quote by Martin Luther King Jr. is: Intelligence plus character, that is the goal of true education,” she says. “Believe that you have the right to become anything or anyone! And do not allow racism to stop you from becoming successful. Do not allow it to destroy your inner soul and peace of mind!”

NJ First Lady Tammy Murphy Unveils Groundbreaking Maternal and Infant Health Plan 

First Lady Tammy Murphy and national public health expert Dr. Vijaya Hogan recently unveiled the Nurture NJ Maternal and Infant Health Strategic Plana strategy to reduce New Jersey’s high rates of maternal and infant mortality and eliminate the racial disparities responsible for these deaths. The strategic plan is the latest element of the First Lady’s Nurture NJ initiative, which aims to make New Jersey the safest and most equitable place in the nation to deliver and raise a baby.

Eliminating racial disparities in maternal and infant healthcare 

Currently, Black mothers in the state are seven times more likely than white mothers to die from pregnancy-related complications. In addition, Black babies in New Jersey are three times more likely than white babies to die before their first birthdays. The Nurture NJ Maternal and Infant Health Strategic Plan includes over 70 specific, actionable recommendations for maternal health stakeholders across all sectors. Funded by The Nicholson Foundation and the Community Health Acceleration Partnership, the plan will position New Jersey as a national leader in the fight for maternal health equity.

entrepreneur empowerment lunch

First Lady of New Jersey Tammy S. Murphy unveils the Nurture NJ Maternal and Infant Health Plan. (Photo credit: NJ.gov)

“Fully achieving the goals of Nurture NJ requires transformative change to a system that has historically and disproportionately failed Black women,” said First Lady Tammy Murphy. “The Nurture NJ Maternal and Infant Health Strategic Plan provides the blueprint for necessary collaboration, partnership, and communication among government, private stakeholders, nonprofits and impacted communities and will ensure every New Jersey mother and baby gets off to a healthy start.”

The plan aims to reduce maternal mortality by 50 percent over five years and eliminate racial disparities in birth outcomes. To do so, the plan seeks to: (1) ensure all women are healthy and have access to care before pregnancy; (2) build a safe, high quality equitable system of care for all women prenatally through postpartum care; and (3) ensure supportive community environments during every other part of a woman’s life so that the conditions and opportunities for health are always available.  

“Nationally and in New Jersey, maternal and infant mortality are among the worst disparities that Black women experience,” said Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman. “We are bombarded by stories that prove this issue crosses socioeconomic boundaries, and despite decades of awareness, we’ve struggled to move the needle. It will take coordinated effort at every level to change these statistics, and I am grateful that the First Lady continues to use her platform and her power to be part of those efforts.” 

 NAACP NJ State Secretary and Health Chair, Vivian M. J. Darkes applauded First Lady Tammy Murphy, and said,  “It is time that we acknowledge this issue and declare racism the social emergency that it is. We must join this collaborative in its quest to build racial equity infrastructure and capacity while engaging trusted voices within the communities, including people of color in the overall structure from the top to the bottom.”

“Women of color experience some of the highest rates of health inequalities due to societal, economic and environmental factors that impact their health,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President, March of Dimes. “The Nurture NJ Strategic Plan will go a long way in tackling these social determinants of health, as well as the structural and systemic inequities that we see in our healthcare system. We’re honored to support this transformative and innovative approach to improving maternal health outcomes which has the potential to serve as a national model.”

“The maternal death rate for Black women in NJ is seven times that of white women,” Dr. Nastassia Davis, Founder/Executive Director, Perinatal Health Equity Foundation. “Black women in New Jersey are in a state of crisis.  Just this December we lost a Black mother named Jenayha Nulums to a post birth hemorrhage which was likely preventable. The Nurture NJ plan will complement the Black Mamas Matter Alliance’s plan as they both provide a solid framework of the necessary steps to move the needle forward. We have talked about these statistics long enough, it is time to put our words into actions.”

Implementing Nurture NJ: “Not just a ‘quick fix’ –it’s a long-term strategy” 

Formally launched as Nurture NJ on Maternal Health Awareness Day, January 23, 2019, the issue of maternal and infant health has been a focal point of the First Lady since the inception of the Murphy Administration in 2018.

NJ First Lady Tammy Murphy Keynote Speaker at 2019 Women Entrepreneur Empowerment Lunch. 

“This plan is not just a ‘quick fix’ — it’s a long-term strategy that will result in the systemic change needed to reach our goal of making New Jersey the safest and most equitable place in the nation to give birth and raise a baby,” said Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, who serves as Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs. “By focusing on equity, we can more effectively transform a system that has been failing New Jersey’s women of color for too long.”

The Nurture NJ Maternal and Infant Health Strategic Plan is the culmination of over a year of in-person and virtual meetings with over 100 critical stakeholders, including national public health experts, New Jersey state departments and agencies, health systems, physicians, doulas, community organizations, and mothers and families. The team drew on extensive maternal health research and data to examine the structural barriers and systemic racism that contributes to the maternal and infant health crisis. 

“The Nurture NJ strategic plan is designed to build a complete ecosystem that supports the health and well-being of mothers and infants,” said Dr. Vjiaya Hogan, independent consultant, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Maternal and Child Health, Gillings School of Public Health, UNC-CH and lead author of the Nurture NJ plan. “The desire for transformative change was shared in every stakeholder discussion across New Jersey and the nation. This plan is about changing health outcomes through changing the way society treats women of color in all aspects of their lives.”

nurture NJ, maternal and infant health

The Ecosystem is a map of the conditions that need to be built to ensure that all women in NJ are surrounded by environments that always support and never inhibit their health and wellbeing. (Graphic source: nurturenj.gov)

To begin implementation, the report includes a detailed Year-One Playbook outlining the immediate, actionable recommendations that lay the groundwork for systemic change. The plan also includes implementation tools for various stakeholder groups in New Jersey, including business leaders, state agencies, health and social service providers, and community groups. The team, which includes 11 national consultants, has already begun working with stakeholders to ensure the feasibility of implementing the recommended action steps.

To learn more about Nurture NJ, visit NurtureNJ.nj.gov.

The Nicholson Foundation is a private foundation in New Jersey dedicated to improving the health and well-being of vulnerable populations in the state.

The Community Health Acceleration Partnership works to build stronger and more effective community health systems through catalytic investments and strategic engagement.

racial and ethnic inequity

New data reveals disproportionate racial and ethnic disparities among COVID-19 cases

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, the virus has affected the daily lives of all of us. However, COVID-19 has not affected as all equally. As we continue to learn more about the virus, new data collected by the COVID Tracking Project is revealing the racial and ethnic disparities among those infected and killed by the virus. 

Understanding the Disparities 

As of now, the U.S. has surpassed 200,000 COVID-19 deaths, and has reached nearly 7 million confirmed cases. From these cases, data has found that nationally, Black, Hispanic, and Native Americans have disproportionately higher rates of infection. These racial and ethnic groups have also experienced greater deaths, exceeding their share of the population. 

According to key findings from the COVID Tracking Project, Black Americans continue to get infected and die from COVID-19 at rates more than 1.5 times their share of the population. Additionally, data shows that Hispanic and Latinos have a disproportionate rate of infection in 45 states and the District of Columbia. For Native Americans, their share of death and sickness is disproportionate to their population in 21 out of the 36 states with sufficient reporting data. In contrast, white, non-Hispanic cases have consistently remained disproportionately low nationally for their share of the population. 

The COVID Racial Data Tracker also did an analysis recently comparing white death rates to other groups and found that Hispanic and Native Americans are dying about 1.5 times the rate of white people, while Black Americans are dying at 2.4 times. 

CDC released data showing that Blacks, Latinos, and American Indians are experiencing hospitalizations at rates 4.5 to 5.5 times higher than non-Hispanic whites. (Source: CDC.gov)

These health disparities are caused by a variety of factors, many of which are largely due to long-standing systemic health and social inequities. Racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to face inequities in the social determinants of health, such as poverty and access to healthcare.    

Key factors that contribute to increased risk

These are just some of the many inequities that put racial and ethnic minority groups at an increased risk of infection and death from COVI-19. 

Discrimination

Discrimination is plays a huge part in limiting who can access crucial services such as healthcare. It exists in systems such as housing, education, criminal justice, and finances as well, which greatly impact the quality of life for those who are part of a racial or ethnic minority group. Discrimination, which includes racism, can lead to chronic and toxic stress, which also affects one’s health and can put individuals at an increased risk for COVID-19. 

Healthcare access

Since people from racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to experience discrimination in systems such as healthcare, this means many more are likely to be uninsured compared to non-Hispanic whites. Healthcare access can also be limited for these groups by other factors such as lack of reliable transportation, child care, ability to take time off work, and language barriers. A long history of discrimination in healthcare also may make some people hesitant to seek help from government and healthcare systems. 

Occupation 

People from racial and ethnic minority groups also face increased risk of infection due to their occupations. Many individuals from these groups are disproportionately represented in essential work positions such as healthcare facilities, grocery stores, farms, factories, and public transportation. They are put at an increased risk due to several factors, from poor working conditions, close contact to others, not being able to work from home, and not having paid sick days. 

Educational, income, and wealth gaps

Educational and economic inequity severely impacts the quality of life for many people in racial and ethnic minority groups. A recent study found that racial discrimination in these areas has cost the U.S. trillions over the last 20 years. Racial and ethnic discrimination in education limits future opportunities such as college admittance, job options, and income gain. People with limited job options are less likely to leave their job, even if it puts them at a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19. 

Housing

Members of racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to face housing conditions that may increase their risk of exposure and infection. In many cultures, it is common for many generations of family to live together under one roof. This makes it difficult to follow prevention strategies such as social distancing. Additionally, due to previously mentioned factors such as discrimination and wealth gap, many cannot afford quality housing which poses greater health risks. Some also live in very cramped quarters with others, which also increased the risk of exposure and infection. Lastly, those who have lost their wages due to the pandemic are at a greater risk of eviction and homelessness. 

What We Can Do

The number one thing we can do is work together to ensure that all people have equal access to resources and information to maintain and manage their physical and mental health.

(Source: unsplash.com/@unitednations)

The CDC offers some guidelines and resources to help start this work. While the issue is large and complex, and dismantling inequities will involve work from all systems and institutions, each one of us can do our part to help dismantle these inequities. 

Key steps you can take to help reduce racial and ethnic inequities: 

  • Share COVID-19 prevention information and resources with communities disproportionately affected 
  • Work with trusted local media to share information in diverse formats and languages to reach all community members
  • Connect people to healthcare providers and medical resources, including free or low cost services, such as COVID-19 testing
  • Work to connect people with good and necessities such as healthy foods and housing 

 

Latina leadership

Corporate executive Beth Marmolejos shares insights on being a Latina leader

How hard is it to become a Latina leader? Throughout her career, Beth Marmolejos has risen to leadership roles and achieved great success in her field.  Her story offers some insights and advice to other aspiring Latina leaders.  

Latina leadership

Beth Marrazini-Marmolejos

Bethania “Beth” Marrazini-Marmolejos is a passionate, hard-working corporate executive with 25 plus years experience in the Healthcare and Pharmaceutical Industries. She is currently employed by Anthem in New York City where she serves as an IT Executive Advisor for the New York and Wisconsin markets.

Beth began her corporate career in 1987, working as a Data Sales Entry analyst for MEDCO Health Solutions Accounting Department in Franklin Lakes, NJ. She began this job with no college credits and through her years with the company she was able to earn both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Eighty-percent of her courses were paid for by her employer as long as she maintained her grades.  After ten years of intensive coursework, Beth graduated with honors earning a Bachelors in Accounting and a Masters in Finance.

While she worked toward earning her degrees, Beth continued to move up through various roles within the Finance department at MEDCO. These experiences helped prepare Beth for the leaderships roles that would soon follow in her career.

Seeing challenges as opportunities for Latina leadership

Latina leadership

Beth Marmolejos Speaker at Bellas Fashionistas NY 2018 with Founder Flerisel Bello

One story Beth shares is when at MEDCO, her company bought a subsidiary called “Accredo” for $2B. At this time, both the President of that subsidiary and Beth’s boss, the Vice President of Financing and Pricing, decided to leave. “That challenge was a blessing for me,” says Beth. As the Senior Manager of Finance, Beth was propelled into a major leadership role helping the company through the acquisition and integration of the subsidiary.

“Then, I was young and did not realize what a huge undertaking and responsibility this was, I just faced the situation head on and did my job,” she explains. “That being said, the opportunity opened doors for me to be flying on the company’s jet with senior leaders to Memphis…and got a promotion to Director of Finance after the acquisition was completed,” says Beth.  “The moral of the story is that I was able to remain calm and focus despite the challenges, and ended up getting promoted.”

Later in 2013, Beth left MEDCO to work in New York City for Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield under the leadership of Brian Griffin, an old colleague of Beth’s from MEDCO. Here she continued to rise quickly, earning the title of Director after only six months of starting at Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Beginning in 2016, Beth started working as IT Executive Advisor for the state of New York and Wisconsin for Empire’s parent company, Anthem. Here she continues to be someone people love to work with. She believes her Latina roots give her an edge above her peers and have led her to success within her field. She faces every situation with a can-do mentality and positive energy– traits that have been fostered in her through her Latina upbringing.

When working with others she always treats people with respect. “I truly and genuinely make everyone feel valued and that comes from the Latina in me! We love people!” says Beth.

“Latinindad,” a challenge or a benefit for Latina leadership

Latina leadership

Community Leader Honoree from North Jersey Federal Credit Union with Arlene Quinones Perez, Esq and Lourdes Cortez, President.

Beth also cites that one challenge she has faced throughout her years in her field is often being the only Latina in her department. At times she has felt that she needs to “tone down” her passion and enthusiasm to project at a more Executive level. This act of self-censorship is difficult because “As you know, we Latinas are very passionate!” says Beth.

Another challenge has been dealing with people that do not share her same business ethics and moral compass. These people often become hindrances as they do not understand Beth’s enthusiasm or misinterpret her desire to help as having a hidden agenda.  Still, Beth does not let these people discourage her.

You might be interested: Arlene Quinones-Perez opening speaker at Female Leadership Business Retreat

Throughout her years of experience she has learned many insights. To other Latinas searching for success in their own careers, Beth shares that “when you treat people with respect…that creates a good reputation that you can leverage to obtain better opportunities within your organization.” She believes that the key to obtaining leadership roles is to be a “can-do type of person” and to be happy, positive, and knowledgeable as these traits will attract others to want to work with you.

Beth’s story shows what can be achieved through hard work and a good attitude. She has risen through various positions in her field and now occupies a Latina leadership role across many organizations.  She hopes to help other Hispanic professionals achieve success, especially Latinas, by opening doors to help them move forward.

“I am eager to…make sure that more people that look like me are at the leadership table with me.”