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Changing the Conversation about Obesity

Jan 9, 2015, 4:02 PM, Posted by Darrin Anderson

Children play tether ball on a playground. "Our goal is to help children and communities achieve a healthy weight through prevention strategies that support access to affordable, healthy foods and increase opportunities for safe physical activity."

Nearly one in four children ages 10-17 in New Jersey is overweight or obese, leading to a plethora of adult-style health issues in kids,  such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Even more concerning: If the prevalence of obesity continues to rise, New Jersey’s obesity-related health care spending could quadruple to $9.3 billion by 2018. In order to truly have an impact on those costs, both human and monetary, we need to change the way we talk about obesity.

The New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids (NJPHK) recently hosted a conference to do just that. More than 300 community leaders, dietitians, teachers, school nurses, and social workers gathered at our Building Healthy, Equitable Communities conference on December 3 to talk about what works, and doesn’t work, in the fight against obesity. Ultimately, we all need to work together to build a Culture of Health in communities where everyone can reach optimal health, regardless of the color of their skin or where they live.

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Mental Health Challenges of Hurricane Sandy’s Aftermath

Oct 29, 2014, 8:31 AM, Posted by Vicki Philips

Hurricane Sandy - Shore Tour Driftwood Cabana Club, Sea Bright, N.J.

On her 90th birthday, instead of celebrating, Dottie (whose last name is withheld for privacy) lost her home in Superstorm Sandy. Two years later, she is still displaced, living in temporary rentals.

Dottie’s nephew is trying to change that. He’s been rebuilding Dottie's home. Like so many New Jersey residents, he says he’s going to keep at it until reconstruction is complete. Meanwhile, he’s getting some much needed support from groups like BrigStrong, the County Long Term Recovery Group, and the Mental Health Association in New Jersey (MHANJ).

It’s been two long years since Hurricane Sandy slammed into New Jersey on October 29, 2012. As a mental health worker, I still see the aftereffects firsthand.

For the past two years, the Mental Health Association in New Jersey (MHANJ), along with other local groups, has been on the front lines of the battle to maintain the mental health of Jersey Shore residents. Thanks to a major RWJF grant, MHANJ has been able to leave the county in a better position to deal with the next disaster:

  • We’ve given mental health first aid training to city employees who, in their daily work, encounter community members with mental health issues.
  • Through our Certified Recovery Support Practitioner program, we’ve improved our ability to reach out to the most vulnerable. Many community members certified through the program have faced mental health challenges themselves, which only increases their credibility.
  • We counseled populations with mental health issues on how to safely evacuate or shelter in place, thus ensuring that first responders will be safer in future emergencies.

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Nurses on Hospital Boards – Why Is It So Important?

Sep 5, 2013, 3:19 PM

The Institute of Medicine report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, recommended that nurses be empowered and prepared to take leadership roles, becoming full partners in hospitals and other health care settings to redesign health care in the United States.

In this video, produced by the New Jersey Action Coalition, Dave Knowlton, president and CEO of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, and Robert Wise, president and CEO of the Hunterdon Healthcare System, talk about the importance of having nurses in leadership positions on hospital boards.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.

Recovering from Disaster: NewPublicHealth Q&A with NJ Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd

Jul 9, 2013, 11:24 AM

file Mary O'Dowd, NJ State Health Commissioner

NewPublicHealth has been conducting a series of interviews with health directors impacted by weather disasters this year. Last month marked the official start of hurricane season in the Atlantic. We recently spoke with Mary O’Dowd, health commissioner of New Jersey, which is continuing its recovery and rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy last fall.

>>Read our interview with Oklahoma Health Commissioner Terry Cline on the tornadoes that struck Oklahoma this summer.

NewPublicHealth: How far along are you in the recovery process?

Mary O’Dowd: One of the things that we’ve learned is that recovery takes years not months when you’re dealing with a disaster of the proportion that Superstorm Sandy was for New Jersey. I would say that we’ve made significant progress. Some communities have very little signs of Sandy left, others are still working to rebuild a significant amount of their property and they’re still in the process of demolition of damaged buildings and properties. Great strides have been made, much progress has already occurred, but there still is a lot of work yet to be done.

NPH: What are some of the public health endeavors you’re still engaged in for the response?

Watch a video about the public health response to Hurricane Sandy featuringing Mary O'Dowd and other public health officials

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A New Nurse Aids Some of Those Who Lost So Much During Hurricane Sandy

Jul 3, 2013, 9:00 AM, Posted by Olivia Jackson

Olivia Jackson is an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) program. She graduated summa cum laude from Fairleigh Dickinson University's Accelerated Bachelor's Degree in Nursing program this past May. She has a BA in Biological Sciences from Rutgers University. She is currently pursuing a career in medical surgical nursing.

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The Jersey Shore is open for business this summer, and I am proud to say that I played a small part if making that happen, and helping the community that was devastated by Hurricane Sandy last year.

In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the East Coast, especially in New Jersey and New York. For our November volunteer project, I and several other NCIN scholars at Fairleigh Dickinson University devoted a Saturday to helping the citizens of Rockaway Beach, New York, where the storm was particularly strong.

Through online research on Newyorkcares.org, I located a bus going to the Rockaways that needed more volunteers to help assemble and distribute care packages to the people affected by Hurricane Sandy. As our bus pulled into the Rockaways, the first thing we saw is what used to be a parking lot for beachgoers. It looked like a scene from an apocalyptic movie. Mounds of debris, most of which used to be the homes of Rockaway residents, extended across the horizon. I felt a deep sense of sadness and could not even imagine how devastated these people must feel having lost everything.

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