NJHI Places Special Focus on New Jersey’s Small Communities

Recognizing that small towns and big cities share many of the same concerns, New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI) is focused on providing resources that small communities (< 50,000 residents) are less likely to have access to when making decisions that can improve the health of the community. Even as community leaders respond to the immediate needs of their communities in the wake of COVID-19, the issues they are addressing have only been magnified by the pandemic.

NJHI partnered with City Health Dashboard in February to develop local data dashboards for 10 small New Jersey communities: Burlington City, Clayton, Egg Harbor City, Glassboro, Hammonton, Lawnside, Millville, Penns Grove, Pleasantville and Salem.

The dashboards include federal, state and other data specific to city boundaries – such as life expectancy, obesity, and children in poverty – with the goal of informing thinking and decision-making at all community levels to improve the health and well-being of everyone in the community. The data dashboards provide a level of access to a broad set of measures that most likely had been previously unavailable to community members. All of the dashboards can be accessed on the City Health Dashboard web site.

The data dashboards are among a set of tools NJHI is providing to the 10 communities to support them in addressing upstream challenges to health and health equity by 1) collaborating across sectors; and 2) making better use of data resources. To support recovery efforts at the community level, NJHI has also partnered with the PolicyMap.com online data and mapping resource to provide PolicyMap accounts to these 10 community teams  to help them visualize, analyze and share housing, education, workforce and demographic data to inform their work. In addition, NJHI is committed to providing examples of local data that can illustrate the factors that make up a healthy community; processes to identify local gaps and challenges; and opportunities to facilitate the development of common goals for improvement. 

In February, cross-sector teams from Burlington City, Clayton, Egg Harbor City, Glassboro, Hammonton, Lawnside, Millville, Penns Grove, Pleasantville and Salem convened in Camden for a Co-Creation Event presented by NJHI in partnership with the Senator Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs at Rutgers University –­ Camden, City Health Dashboard, Data Across Sectors for Health, and the Wandersman Center. Through an interactive informational session, workshops and coaching from collaborators who have expertise in areas such as grantmaking, local/community knowledge, data, the social determinants of health and health equity, the community teams gained a better understanding of opportunities to address the social determinants of health using data-driven ideas.

Smaller communities in New Jersey have significant needs but often operate in the shadows of larger cities. Since mid-March 2020, these 10 community teams have shared that current events present an opportunity to make meaningful change, as there is an increased public awareness of the connections between economic viability, education, employment, homes, food access and health.

NJHI will follow these communities’ progress and publish periodic updates. Connect with NJHI to share your thoughts.

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