Diane Hagerman, NJHI’s Deputy Director, pens this Op-Ed in NJ Spotlight: Making NJ Truly Healthy Means Giving Everyone the Same Opportunities.
"Healthy living is hard to achieve for many New Jerseyans, who face significant economic and social obstacles. We need to build a ‘culture of health’ for all our residents
Being healthy is more than getting a yearly flu shot or making time to get 30 minutes of exercise each day. As important as taking control of one’s lifestyle is, for too many people obstacles to good health come from things far beyond their control.
It is challenging for children to get their daily exercise if their neighborhoods are too dangerous for them to play outside. Parents can’t buy fruits and vegetables if there are no fresh markets in their area. Who among us would choose seeing a doctor if the co-pay meant we couldn’t afford to feed our family? Only when people can obtain appropriate care and have the means to make healthy choices — regardless of their income, education, ethnicity, or where they live — can New Jersey be a truly healthy state.
These social conditions shouldn’t determine how long, or how well, we live. Too many people start behind and stay behind for lack of a decent job, safe living environment, or the opportunity for a good education.
At New Jersey Health Initiatives, the statewide grantmaking program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we work with communities across the Garden State to build a culture of health, where everyone can live a healthier life. This requires removing economic and social obstacles to advance health equity. In Atlantic City, our Care AC coalition has been strengthening partnerships in the city and expanding its focus from issues like nutrition and physical activity, to public safety, substance abuse, and homelessness. The Atlantic City terminal hosts a “social services mall” every month, bringing together an array of social service agencies so people can visit them in one stop. The project bridges the gap between law enforcement and social services to improve the health and well-being of Atlantic City’s homeless and at-risk residents. By engaging partners from law enforcement, tourism, transit, and health and social services, they tackle deeply rooted challenges effectively........"