Princeton, N.J., and Madison, Wis.—Hunterdon County ranks healthiest in New Jersey, and Cumberland County is the least healthy county in the state, according to the fifth annual County Health Rankings, released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI). The Rankings are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org.
“The County Health Rankings show us that where we live matters to our health, and can influence how well and how long we live,” explained James S. Marks, MD, MPH, RWJF senior vice president and director, Health Group. “Because much of what affects our health happens beyond medical care, the Rankings underscore how important it is to build a culture of health where getting healthy, staying healthy, and making sure our kids grow up healthy are top priorities. We want our home state to be a healthy place to live, learn, work, and play for all New Jerseyans.”
The County Health Rankings rank the overall health of nearly every county in all 50 states. The Rankings allow counties to see how well they are doing on 29 factors that influence health, including smoking, high school graduation rates, employment, physical inactivity, and access to healthy foods.
According to the 2014 Rankings, the five healthiest counties in New Jersey, starting with most healthy, are Hunterdon, followed by Somerset, Morris, Bergen, and Middlesex. The five counties in the poorest health, starting with least healthy, are Cumberland, Essex, Atlantic, Salem, and Camden.
“The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s vision for a culture of health is one where everyone has the opportunity to be healthy,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, RWJF president and CEO. “The County Health Rankings are a starting point for change, helping communities come together, identify priorities, and create solutions that will help all in our diverse society live healthier lives, now and for generations to come.”
"We all have a stake in creating a healthier community,” said New Jersey Deputy Health Commissioner Arturo Brito, MD, MPH. “Using the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, leaders from public health and health care, business, education, and government can work together to create programs and policies to improve people’s health, reduce health care costs, and increase productivity."
The Rankings provide county-to-county comparisons within a state. Nationally, this year’s Rankings show that people living in the least healthy counties are twice as likely to have shorter lives as people living in the healthiest counties. Unhealthy counties also have twice as many children living in poverty and twice as many teen births as the healthiest counties. This year’s Rankings also feature several new measures including housing, transportation, and access to mental health providers.
"These rankings have helped us examine the myriad factors and expand the conversation on how we can get healthy, stay healthy and ensure that our children grow up in healthy environments," noted New Jersey Assemblywoman Donna M. Simon, who represents District 16 and is a member of the Assembly Education Committee. “To rank high in overall health for a county, some of the best and most important work a county can do is preventative. I believe it is not just an educational program or seminar that you conduct once or twice a year, but it is the overall body of work that a county consistently commits to and reinforces throughout the year.”
The County Health Rankings is part of the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. The program includes the Roadmaps to Health Action Center which provides local leaders with tools, step-by-step guides, and stories to help communities identify and implement solutions that make it easier for people to live healthy lives.
“The County Health Rankings shine a light on where our communities are stumbling—or succeeding—to rally support for healthy neighborhood change,” said Stephanie D. Carey, MPH, president, New Jersey Association of County & City Health Officials. “We’ve already begun turning the data into action and smart policy choices. For example, we work with land-use planners to design healthy communities with sidewalks, parks and grocery stores.”
The program also includes the annual RWJF Culture of Health Prize, which celebrates communities who are harnessing the collective power of leaders, partners, and stakeholders to build a culture of health. This year’s Prize winners and the call for 2014-2015 prize applications will be announced in June at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Spotlight: Health.
“The County Health Rankings and Roadmaps gives us an opportunity to engage the community in conversations about creating healthy communities—not about how we got here, but what needs to be done to improve,” stated Darrin W. Anderson, Sr., PhD, deputy director of New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids.
“The County Health Rankings show us how health is influenced by our everyday surroundings—where we live, learn, work, and play,” said Bridget Catlin, PhD, MHSA, director of the County Health Rankings. “The County Health Rankings often provide the spark for businesses, community planners, policy-makers, public health, parents, and others to work together for better health.”