Somerset County News

Somerset County Ranked Third-Healthiest in New Jersey

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SOMERVILLE, NJ - Somerset County has been ranked the third-healthiest county in New Jersey for the third year in a row in an annual nationwide survey conducted by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“For the past eight years, Somerset County has been consistently ranked as one of the top three healthiest counties in New Jersey,” said Freeholder Director Patrick Scaglione. “Although Somerset County is ranked third overall this year, when measuring for health factors based on weighted scores for health behaviors, we are number one, and in clinical care Somerset County comes in second.”

The Somerset County Department of Health balances the rankings with other sources of health data to help identify issues and opportunities for countywide health improvement. In addition, these data sets are used as inspiration for public health partnerships, as well as to garner support for initiatives among a variety of government agencies, healthcare providers, community organizations, business leaders, policymakers and the public to shape good health and strong policies to promote health for everyone.

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“The Somerset County Department of Health continually works with our public health partners to improve health behaviors among residents through education and outreach on community health initiatives,” said Freeholder Patricia L. Walsh, liaison to Healthier Somerset, a coalition formed to improve the health and wellness of everyone who lives and works in Somerset County. “The ranking reflects the collaborative efforts taken by our staff and through interactions with these groups to prioritize personal and community health.”

To address community health issues, the Somerset County Department of Health is an active partner in both the Healthier Somerset and Healthier Middlesex coalitions, to focus on engaging county residents and stakeholders in good health habits and promoting policy changes to improve the health and well-being of all in the community. Through the efforts of these partners, Somerset County’s ranking in health behaviors showcases our efforts in assuring policies are in place regarding secondhand smoke and the number of spaces available for physical activity, such as parks, trails, pedestrian and bicycling paths.  We also have an encouraging number of residents who eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Through the efforts of public health, Somerset County had no drinking water violations since the last ranking report.

While no ranking model can perfectly describe the health of a population, the county health ranking can be used to demonstrate differences in health by place, raise awareness of the many factors that influence health, and stimulate further community health-improvement efforts. In ranking the health of nearly every county in the nation, the results illustrate what we know when it comes to what is making people sick or healthy. The roadmaps show what we can do to create healthier places to live, learn, work and play.

The Somerset County Department of Health attributes health-status achievements to ongoing community initiatives, such as with Healthier Somerset and Healthier Middlesex, and several long-standing public health collaborations with organizations such as the Greater Somerset Public Health Partnership and three area hospitals: the Somerset and New Brunswick campuses of Robert Wood Johnson/Barnabas University Hospital, and Saint Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick.

Additional regional collaborations such as the Morris/Somerset Regional Chronic Disease Coalition, and public health linkages with Middlesex and Hunterdon counties, have resulted in efforts to establish ordinances that promote community health, such as smoke-free parks and Complete Streets, and help to enhance communities’ preparedness for and resilience from storms and natural disasters.

Somerset County has promoted programs to expand walking and biking trails, increase open space and increase utilization of alternative energy and green design.  Over the past year, the Somerset County Department of Health received grant funding from the New Jersey Department of Health to reduce citizens’ exposure to tick- and mosquito-borne diseases, and additional funding to decrease the incidence of lead poisoning in children. These are just two illustrations of the county’s commitment to addressing environmental influences on health.

Residents are encouraged to look at these local sources of data to understand more about the health of their community. The Somerset Community Health Improvement Plan and the Middlesex/Somerset Community Health Improvement Plan can be viewed at http://bit.ly/HDPlans   

To view the “County Health Rankings & Roadmaps” report, visit www.CountyHealthRankings.org

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