Community Foundation of New Jersey

Redefining & Ranking Health in NJ

March 27, 2013

Your county’s health status is now a matter of public record. A national study by the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ranks health by county, and the scores are in. For the fourth consecutive year, the healthiest county in New Jersey is Hunterdon County, followed by Morris, Somerset, Bergen and Middlesex counties. Cumberland was New Jersey’s unhealthiest county, followed by Salem, Essex and Camden counties.

As debates over healthcare continue, this study’s findings reveal that healthy communities aren’t necessarily those with greater access to hospitals and clinics. Indeed, the study shows that healthy behaviors (such as diet and exercise) and social factors (emotional support, education, and access to recreational facilities and nutritious food) can have a greater influence on overall health and life expectancy than access to clinical healthcare.

The study looks at factors that, if improved, can lead to significantly healthier communities. For example, the study credits a county’s “built environment” with the greatest influence on the health of its population. Built environment refers to the places where people eat, shop, live and work every day. One measure of built environment is “fast food density” – a measure of the amount of fast food restaurants per capita in a specific area. According to the study, fast food restaurants are the second highest energy provider (access point for food) after grocery stores in counties with lower health ratings. Similarly, lack of access to recreational space in lower-ranking counties correlates with heart disease and obesity – both leading causes of death in the U.S. Built environment is just one example of health determinants that exist outside of the doctor’s office and can be improved with community efforts.

This link between community health and individual health provides evidence for a new concept of healthcare – one that is rooted in citizen participation and community health initiatives. The study’s County Health Rankings and Roadmap Team encourages community members to take action through cooperation, assessment of needs, and support for effective policies and programs.

Are you ready to redefine healthcare in New Jersey? Click here to access your fund in DonorCentral.  And scroll down for those partners and programs with which CFNJ works to promote better health. 

NJ AIDS Partnership

The New Jersey AIDS Partnership is the collaborative effort of private and corporate foundation leaders, public health officials, service providers, people living with HIV/AIDS and other community leaders who believe that HIV/AIDS is fought most effectively at the community level. The Partnership is the only charitable giving fund in New Jersey that is solely committed to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  Click here to learn more.

Operation Medicine Cabinet

Operation Medicine Cabinet is a professional, comprehensive, pre-packaged public safety and environmental awareness program designed to prevent the misuse and abuse of unwanted over-the-counter and prescription medications, and to keep them out of communities’ water supplies.  Click here to learn more.

Food Banks

ShopRite Partners in Caring is a year-round, hunger fighting initiative built in the wake of the recession and designed to support food banks and resources for those in need. ShopRite supports a number of local food banks in New Jersey and throughout the northeast and you can, too.  Click here to learn more or call us at 973-267-5533 to discuss ways to improve access to food in your community.