2018 County Health Rankings Show Progress Made and Opportunities Remain for a Healthier Garden State

This year’s County Health Rankings have been announced, and they are a good resource for rallying all of us to create meaningful change that improves health where we live, learn, work and play. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) refers to this work as building a Culture of Health. As the statewide grantmaking program of RWJF, New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI) supports community stakeholders across the Garden State in fostering deep relationships, thinking more broadly about health and developing long-term solutions that afford all New Jerseyans the opportunity to live the healthiest life possible.

In exploring this year’s rankings for our state, let’s all agree that in every NJ community exists the opportunity – and assets – to improve health for everyone. As we’re learning from our 35+ active grantees, community partners are working across sectors and engaging new and traditionally underrepresented voices in meaningful, broad conversations regarding health. We know that to improve health across the state, especially for those who experience poor health outcomes, we need to understand our neighbors’ challenges so we can work together to implement the most appropriate solutions. For example:

  • In Atlantic City, social services, law enforcement and healthcare are breaking down silos and collaborating to address the various needs of their community’s residents.
  • More than 100 NJ youth ages 14-21 are partnering with elected officials, cross-sector coalitions, and other adults to improve health for their families, friends and neighbors as part of our Next Generation Community Leaders initiative. The 10 communities supported by this initiative span the full geography of the state, including communities where up to 40% of the population is under the age of 18 years.
  • Public, academic and hospital librarians from across the state and around the region have made it clear that they are eager to start a new chapter and step up as health partners in their communities. Many library staff are already helping address access issues such as health literacy, transportation, employment, accessibility and language or cultural barriers. See how this approach is gaining traction in Elizabeth.
  • Regional transportation provider EZ Ride convened community-based organizations, transportation providers, community health professionals, regional and urban planners and public health representatives to explore the opportunities for leveraging transportation services to advance community health, including strategies to address transit needs for seniors who are living independently or wish to age in place.
  • The Hunterdon County Partnership for Health has expanded its work to include partnering with Hunterdon County Chamber of Commerce to implement a worksite wellness strategy that builds a Culture of Health for people who work in the county.

While New Jersey stakeholders have taken important steps to improve the health of their communities, there is more that can be done. We look forward to sharing what has worked well among our grantee communities and learning about the work others are doing. Community-driven strategies are vital to sustaining transformative change. NJHI recognizes and encourages this by providing technical assistance, coaching and network building in addition to funding, which builds healthier communities across the state. The Rankings show us where communities are doing well and highlight what is working in New Jersey.

Produced annually by RWJF and the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute, the County Health Rankings are a resource for every community. Instead of viewing the New Jersey rankings as a race to the top, find the opportunities beyond the numbers and partner with those already working to promote health, well-being and equity for all stakeholders in all 21 New Jersey counties. All counties can take action to improve, no matter where they rank. It is about progress toward better health.

Click here to access the 2018 New Jersey State Report

Read the 2018 County Health Rankings Key Findings Report here

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