For the past year, the Morristown United for Healthy Living Coalition has been engaged in a comprehensive health needs assessment in Morristown’s census tract 435. This journey began when this neighborhood was identified by the North Jersey Health Collaborative as a place with in the county with “hidden” health disparities—hidden by county data…until you look deeper.
With a broad goal of reducing these health disparities, the Morristown United team brought new members to the table and set forth to build on the strengths of this community while also digging to discover the most pressing needs.
We started this journey by exploring available public health data and census data, discovering some unfortunate truths—for example, while 3% of children live in poverty in Morris County, almost 40% live in poverty in our neighborhood.
We shared data, recruited new stakeholders, and went into the community—conducting surveys and interviews with residents and organizational stakeholders. In our community interviews, themes started to emerge. Themes that tied in to the data, painting a picture in both numbers and stories.
Rent is skyrocketing but salaries are not. How can people keep up with that if they can hardly make ends meet now?
With this information and our own personal experiences, we took a vote to select the issues which we would work on together in the coming years. And the results were clear: Housing, the built environment, and financial inequity.
Although not your typical “health needs,” we affirm that housing and the environments in which people live are health issues and the root cause for so many of the obstacles our communities face. Where people live should promote—not hinder—their ability to live healthy, happy, productive lives.
Now, with our needs identified, we have started to envision our ideal future. These visions will be the foundation of the strategies we embark on together. The next few months will involve gathering best practices, sketching plans, setting goals, and as always, engaging with the community. Stay tuned!