New Jersey Health Initiatives - A Better State of Health
A Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Program
Blog: 2016 County Health Rankings – Something to Talk About by Bob Atkins
March 21, 2016

Let’s give them something to talk about

Good news! With the release of the 2016 County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, we can talk about something we all care about—our health. The annual Rankings provide an opportunity to talk about how our health and the health of our neighbors is influenced by where we live, learn, work and play.

As the statewide grantmaking program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, New Jersey Health Initiatives has used the Rankings as a tool to start great conversations in New Jersey. A conversation can be the starting point for change and important conversations, like those we are supporting in NJ, can be transformational.

Transformational conversations depend on timing and the timing couldn’t be better for the ten community coalitions we funded in July 2015 as part of the NJHI Communities Moving to Action initiative.  Our “bottom up” funding strategy sought to strengthen existing relationships by targeting cross sector coalitions already working together toward better health in their communities. NJHI grantmaking assisted in building social capital by increasing opportunities for coalition members to develop social trust and to pull new voices and sectors into the conversation.

Important conversations also require something noteworthy to talk about. NJHI grantees are committed to making changes in their communities that increase the opportunities for healthier living. In New Jersey, our grantees also have the resource of Toni Lewis, a County Health Rankings & Roadmaps coach dedicated to keep the conversation going with tools and technical assistance.

Finally, important conversations require engaged participants who are able to listen to the tips of their fingers, share diverse ideas and experiences, and have the energy to move the conversation to action. That’s what we have in New Jersey. Our grantees are learning to employ asset-based community development to identify existing community resources (e.g., organizational capacity, institutional resources, human capital) that can be used for sustainable community development.

In a few weeks our grantees will be sharing the results of their conversations– “blueprints” they have developed to address the most pressing health problems in their communities. We look forward to continuing our conversation with you over the next three years as these grantees make their blueprints a reality.