William L. Wilson, Healthier Somerset
March 5, 2018
To develop healthy communities, social determinants of health such as transportation, education, access to healthy food and economic opportunities need to be addressed. This requires the use of innovative approaches to implement policy change and reform.
Healthier Somerset’s Building Bridges to Better Health (BBBH) initiative in Bound Brook and South Bound Brook has been gaining momentum by building a “Health in All Policies” platform. “Health in All” is a collaborative approach to improving health.
By incorporating health into all aspects of decision-making throughout community, such as in governance, businesses, education and faith-based organizations, we can create a healthier community in which people live, learn, work, worship, and play.
This policy paradigm encourages decision-makers to consider several factors: health, equity and sustainability; intersectoral collaboration; multiple partner benefits; stakeholder engagement; and structural and process change.
“Part of adopting a Health In All Policies approach requires the recognition that health is connected to everything. Policies must promote health and equity and be sustainable,” comments Middle-Brook Regional Health Commission Health Officer Kevin Sumner, serving Bound Brook and South Bound Brook.
“To improve the health of our communities, decision-makers should incorporate and embed these ideas into government policies, programs and processes as a standard practice of business.”
Collaboration is essential to establishing Health In All policies since strong and long-lasting partnerships are needed to support sustainable change. “The Building Bridges to Better Health initiative is comprised of five action teams consisting of diverse organizations from various sectors of the community.
Government, nonprofit, education, faith-based groups, and transportation are some of the areas represented,” notes Serena Collado, director of Community Health at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset in Somerville and PI for BBBH.
“The leadership team and these action teams are supported by a larger coalition, Healthier Somerset, which consists of over 50 organizations throughout Somerset County that can assist in making these communities healthy.”
Building Bridges to Better Health also aims to make change that benefits multiple partners, another key element of Health In All Policies.
“The development of a school-based clinic will benefit the schools, community and the hospital who is partnering on the project,” said Maria Strada, executive director of Middle Earth and chair of the School-Based Programming Action Team.
Health In All Policies, in addition, engages all stakeholders including community members, private sector and advocates, to identify policy and system changes necessary to create meaningful and impactful health improvements.
“Bound Brook is presently recruiting town residents to assist in the development of a community garden,” said Bound Brook Mayor Bob Fazen.
“By engaging the community, we anticipate they will embrace and sustain this project which will enhance food security and the health and wellness of area residents.”
Finally, BBBH is working to create permenant structural and process changes which will emphasize the Health In All Policies approach throughout the towns of Bound Brook and South Bound Brook.
As South Bound Brook Mayor Carol Schoffner said, “By engaging various sectors of the community, implementing sustainable infrastructures and demonstrating the benefits; we can make Bound Brook and South Bound Brook healthy communities for years to come.”
The BBBH initiaive is one example of how Healthier Somerset has adopted the Health In All Policies strategy. With the support of all coalition members, Healthier Somerset seeks to implement this approach throughout the county.
For more information, visit www.healthiersomerset.org.
William L. Wilson, Healthier Somerset
January 29, 2018
In February, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) Somerset in Somerville will kick off a community health needs assessment (CHNA) of Somerset County.
Partnering with Healthier Somerset, researchers will begin to gather data on the needs of community residents by compiling existing data and conducting telephone surveys, focus groups and interviews with many county leaders and organizations. These include community and faith-based organizations, health care providers, law enforcement, government, education, business and social service organizations.
Community health needs assessments create an important opportunity to improve the health of communities. They ensure that hospitals and other agencies have the information they need to provide community benefits or services that meet the needs and address the issues.
“In public health, the process of Community Needs Assessments is an invaluable tool for improving the public in solving problems and developing goals,” said Paul Masaba, director of public health and health officer for the Somerset County Department of Health.
“It helps to gather accurate information representative of the needs of the community, and the depth of the assets available within the community to address those needs. Ultimately, this process can prove helpful to strategically plan and deliver relevant, successful and timely services to the community.”
“For hospitals, Community Health Needs Assessments also provide an opportunity to improve coordination of hospital services with other initiatives to improve the community’s health,” added Serena Collado, director of community health at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset.
“The assessment should include individuals and organizations that represent a comprehensive and diverse perspectives of the community served by the hospital facility, including those with special knowledge of or expertise in public health.”
A kickoff meeting will be Tuesday, Feb. 20, from 9 to 10:30 a.m. in the third-floor conference room of the Steeplechase Cancer Center to discuss the community health needs assessment process, gather data, review hospital utilization statistics and review time frames for completion.
Healthier Somerset encourages residents and organizations that serve all those who live and work in Somerset County to participate in the Community Health Needs Assessment by attending the February 20 meeting.
For more information on the CHNA or Healthier Somerset, visit www.healthiersomerset.org.
Rebecca Perkins, Healthier Somerset
December 25, 2017
Healthier Somerset recognized 11 municipalities for their support of farmers markets and “Complete Streets” at the coalition’s Annual Meeting and Recognition breakfast Dec. 19. Farmers markets and Complete Streets were the focus of Healthier Somerset’s 2016-2017 New Jersey Healthy Communities Grant for Bridgewater, Green Brook and North Plainfield.
North Plainfield was the first to adopt Complete Streets in 2016; their farmers market was in place then as well. Bridgewater and Green Brook both opened farmers markets this year and passed Complete Streets resolutions as well. These municipalities will receive grant funding to further transportation projects in their towns.
In 2017, Healthier Somerset celebrated seven years of working collaboratively to improve the health and well-being of all who live and work in Somerset County. Here are some of the year’s highlights:
- Healthier Somerset completed Year 2 goals of the 2016-2019 Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP), identifying the major health needs in Somerset County (mental health and addiction, obesity, chronic disease, and access to care) and adopting strategies to address them.
- Healthier Somerset completed Year 2 activities of a New Jersey Culture of Health grant, a four-year, $200,000 grant that aims to create a culture of health in Bound Brook and South Bound Brook.
- Healthier Somerset recognized 16 companies through our “Healthy Workplaces” Recognition Award in June. The program recognizes employers who demonstrate their commitment to a healthier worksite by implementing worksite wellness programs that improve the health and well-being of their employees. Recipients earn a bronze, silver or gold designation based on the length of their program and the number of activities provided.
With Somerset County’s rebranding as a “vibrant connection,” health and wellness play an even more important role in our economic future. Healthier Somerset is the only New Jersey health coalition to actively link health and wellness to local economic development and policy. We are a healthy community, which is key to our quality of life, and health and wellness are also key to our economic development efforts, driving much of our business attraction and retention programs.
We actively work to make Somerset County the healthiest county in the state. We are ranked second in healthy behaviors, and third-healthiest county overall. Achieving the top ranking will support our economy as well as our health and quality of life.
Healthier Somerset is the only organization in Somerset County where everyone with an interest in health — nonprofit organizations, businesses, and government — comes together to share information and work together. We invite you to our monthly coalition meetings, which are held from 8:45 to 10:30 a.m. on the third Tuesday of each month at Steeplechase Cancer Center at RWJ Somerset in Somerville. All 2018 meeting dates and more are on www.healthiersomerset.org. Healthier Somerset wishes you all a happy and healthy new year!
Rebecca Perkins, Healthier Somerset
November 27, 2017
Healthier Somerset was awarded a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant last year to create a culture of health in Bound Brook and South Bound Brook. The project, “Building Bridges to Better Health,” seeks to make Bound Brook and South Bound Brook healthy communities.
The initiative launched in November 2016 with a series of focus groups and key informant interviews designed to provide a deeper understanding of community resources and concerns.
Focus groups included longtime residents, adult Latino populations, and parents of children enrolled in local K-12 public schools. Key informant interviews included health providers, elected officials, public school administrators, law enforcement and social service nonprofit organizations.
Based on feedback from these initiatives and from information gained at the November community launch, the team developed a survey for residents of the community. The survey covered the respondents’ feelings about safety, transportation, community services, food and nutrition, schools, and health and healthcare.
As a response to the survey, the grant leadership team — American Lung Association of New Jersey; Family and Community Health Sciences of Rutgers Cooperative Extension; Middle-Brook Regional Health Commission; Middle Earth; and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset in Somerville — has begun a new transportation initiative.
The transportation action team is working with Walter Lane, director of the Planning Division of Somerset County, and Jeanne Herb, associate director of Environmental Analysis and Communications Group at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy of Rutgers University.
The initiative has two parts: transportation infrastructure and opportunities to increased access for active recreation. Each section will be addressed by second-year graduate students in planning at the Bloustein School as a capstone project, a requirement for graduation.
The first project will assess Bound Brook and South Bound Brook infrastructure for walkability, bikeability and access to transportation opportunities, including shuttles and public transportation.
The team, which will be composed of up to 20 students, will walk the towns, noting unsafe corridors and crossings, issues with infrastructure such as crumbling sidewalks, lack of pedestrian and disability access, and other areas that would present transportation challenges.
The team will then produce a full documentation of the challenges in a written record that is designed to coordinate seamlessly with New Jersey Department of Transportation’s grant process. It will be completed by May 2018, which is the deadline for NJDOT grant applications.
The second initiative is designed as a studio course that will focus solely on increased opportunities for active recreation in Bound Brook on the Raritan River, such as kayaking and canoeing. The students will examine land parcels that are contiguous to downtown Bound Brook and will review the safety and regulatory challenges the project presents.
“Enhanced transportation options” were identified as one of five themes set as priorities in the project team’s Blueprint for Action. The remaining priorities are expansion of school based programming; improved communication about current resources and programming; creation of free/low cost programming at local, trusted sources; and integrating health into decision-making at a policy level.
The grant leadership team welcomes community participation in the projects. For more information, visit Healthier Somerset’s website at www.healthiersomerset.org/grants.html.
Rebecca Perkins is the project manager for Healthier Somerset
October 30, 2017
Rebecca Perkins, Healthier Somerset
Healthier Somerset is a longtime advocate for Complete Streets, a New Jersey Department of Transportation program that supports roadways designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities.
“Complete” streets encourage physical activity by making it easy to cross the street, walk to shops, and bicycle to work. Instituting a complete streets policy ensures that agencies routinely design and operate the entire right of way to enable safe access for all users.
Bridgewater recently passed a resolution of support for Complete Streets, becoming the 11th municipality in Somerset County to do so. Bridgewater joins Bedminster, Bound Brook, Bridgewater, Hillsborough, Manville, Millstone, Montgomery, North Plainfield, Raritan and Somerville. Healthier Somerset applauds them for their action!
In October 2016, the Somerset County Board of Freeholders became the eighth county in New Jersey to enact a resolution in support of Complete Streets. Somerset County has demonstrated their active support for Complete Streets with a seminar held last year for municipal officials featuring planning officials from NJDOT and the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority.
Grant supports Complete Streets
Healthier Somerset has supported Complete Streets with funding from a two-year, $20,000 grant from New Jersey Healthy Communities Network that focuses on increased physical activity through Complete Streets. Through this grant and a previous one-year $10,000 grant, Healthier Somerset has purchased bike racks for municipalities that have adopted Complete Streets. Townships may also opt to use the grant money for other transportation-related projects that encourage physical activity.
Partners participating in the grant are Bridgewater Department of Health, EmPOWer Somerset, Middle-Brook Regional Health Commission and Morris-Somerset Regional Chronic Disease and Cancer Coalition.
Aiding economic development
Healthier Somerset knows, as do Somerset County officials, that enacting the resolution is only the first step to integrating the policy into future planning decisions. Somerset County’s Division of Planning works closely with Healthier Somerset and is helping to align our activities with the Regional Center Partnership (Somerville, Raritan and Bridgewater).
Exercise and physical activity are not only essential components of a healthy lifestyle, they are also key elements in Somerset County’s outstanding quality of life and are a major attraction for tourism and economic development. With the support and participation of the Somerset County Business Partnership, they have forged an alliance that brings health-focused planning to transportation and economic development in Somerset County.
The adoption of Complete Streets is a vital element in Somerset County’s goal to be the healthiest county in New Jersey. With more than half of Somerset County municipalities now supporting Complete Streets, they urge the remaining municipalities to join them and make Somerset County a full Complete Streets county.
Visit www.healthiersomerset.org for more information, and like them on Facebook and follow on Twitter at #HealthierSCNJ.
October 4, 2016
On Saturday, Sept 24, Bridgewater Township hosted a family event In recognition of Fruits and Veggies –More Matters Month and in support of the Jersey Fresh Campaign. The event featured activities for children, including story time and crafts projects, as well as healthy nutrition displays and tastings of vegetable soup and fresh fruit and veggie sampling. The day’s activities were held in the park at the Bridgewater Municipal Complex.
Bridgewater is one of three selected municipalities in Healthier Somerset’s NJHCN grant. Serena Collado, community health director at RWJ Somerset and Healthier Somerset convener, hosted an exhibit and spoke on the importance of incorporating fruits and vegetables into a daily diet (5 a Day) and highlighted farmers markets in the area.
Serena distributed 25 farmers markets vouchers and produce bags that we distribute at our presentations.
Healthier Somerset congratulates Bridgewater Mayor Dan Hayes, Bridgewater health officers, and all those who planned and participated in this great family event!
Bridgewater Mayor Dan Hayes welcomes The Green Planet Band, who performed at the event. Members of the band are Kylee Rapp – 10 years old – Guitar and Vocals Tyler Rapp – 8 years old – Drums Anna Rapp – 8 years old – Bass Guitar. Tyler and Anna are twins.
September 26, 2016
The Somerset County Board of Freeholders has named October “Healthier Somerset Month” in Somerset County. This month we invite all who live or work in Somerset County to join us as we raise awareness of good health practices.
Healthier Somerset is open to all because a healthy community produces benefits for everyone. Individuals improve their lives and wellbeing with good health habits. Employers save on healthcare costs and absenteeism while benefiting from improved productivity and performance. Communities enjoy enhanced economic benefits from the desirability of a location where people want to live and work.
Healthier Somerset is unique in that it is the only organization in Somerset County where everyone who has an interest in health convenes. The coalition is comprised not only of organizations whose primary focus is health, such as nonprofit healthcare organizations, public health officials, and healthcare providers, but also businesses, schools, government, and faith-based organizations.
The organization has grown since its founding in 2010 because our partners see the value of collaboration and networking. One of the greatest benefits is connecting our partners with others who are often working toward the same goals but would not otherwise meet in a common space to share information and ideas.
Healthier Somerset is also unique among health coalitions in that our agenda links public policy and economic development to health. For Somerset County, good health is also good business.
We have a rich legacy as home to many global pharmaceutical companies, and we remain a strong presence in New Jersey with a growing concentration of health research, biotech, and small pharma organizations. Our economic future is based on health and wellness.
Our government partners understand that health outcomes are part of every aspect of decision making in our municipalities and in the county. Our shared goal is to become the healthiest county in New Jersey, and our elected officials and our administrators incorporate this goal across departments.
Somerset County’s health goals are documented in the 2016-2019 Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP). The CHIP is the most comprehensive report available on the health of our county, and it lays out a three-year, county-wide commitment to Somerset County’s health improvement priorities: mental health and substance abuse; obesity; chronic care; and access to healthcare.
“Healthier Somerset Month” will be marked by a focus on our partners and the work they are doing, with special health and wellness events throughout October.
Two major events are the Somerset County Business Partnership’s Second Annual Workplace Health & Wellness Exposition on Thursday, Oct. 13, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. 270 Davidson Ave., Somerset, section of Franklin, and the Healthier Somerset Employer Wellness Breakfast on Monday, Oct. 24, 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at the AVE Somerset, 199 Pierce Street, Somerset section of Franklin.
More information about these events, and about Healthier Somerset, can be found on the website at www.healthiersomerset.org. We invite you to celebrate “Healthier Somerset Month” by joining our mission to become the healthiest county in New Jersey.
Rebecca Perkins is the project manager for Healthier Somerset.
September 7, 2016
Congratulations, North Plainfield! The borough is the first of our three targeted municipalities to adopt a resolution of support for Complete Streets. The resolution states that new construction and reconstruction of all public roads shall be designed and constructed as Complete Streets whenever it is feasible to do so in order to accommodate travel by pedestrians, bicyclists, public transit, and motorized vehicles and their passengers, with special attention given to pedestrians.
David Hollod, North Plainfield Business Administrator, noted that North Plainfield has always been conscious of pedestrian safety. “North Plainfield is a very walkable community. We’re very aggressive in keeping our sidewalks and roads maintained, and we try to encourage walking throughout the borough.”
Hollod cited the borough’s participation in “Safe Routes to School,” a statewide initiative to enable and encourage students to safely walk and bicycle to school, and a current program to install sidewalks on a portion of U.S. Route 22 that passes through the borough, as examples of North Plainfield’s commitment.
North Plainfield will now receive $2,000 to purchase bicycle racks. Hollod said that the NJHCN grant was a key factor in the decision. “Grant funding for bike racks for the borough was an incentive for us, and helped us make the decision to act,” he said.
Healthier Somerset congratulates North Plainfield on its commitment to Complete Streets and to a healthier community!
SOMERSET COUNTY – In 2015, Healthier Somerset partnered with ShapingNJ and the New Jersey Department of Health to combat obesity and chronic disease in Somerset County. The organization was awarded a $12,000 grant to educate targeted communities on the importance of physical activity and a healthy diet.
Partners in the grant presented seminars in Manville, Bound Brook, and Somerville showing how to make easy summer meals with fresh fruit and produce found at farmers markets. We also focused on “Complete Streets,” a state program designed to encourage safe access for all roadway users. All three of our targeted communities have passed a resolution agreeing to adopt Complete Streets principles in their planning.
This year, Healthier Somerset is continuing this work with a grant from Atlantic Health System and the NJ Healthy Communities Network. The $20,000 grant covers two years of activity, and Healthier Somerset is again focusing on nutrition and physical activity, expanding the successful program to Bridgewater, Green Brook, and North Plainfield.
As part of our program to encourage healthy eating and active lifestyles in these communities, Healthier Somerset is planning the first of the nutrition seminars that are a key focus of our NJHCN grant activities.
NJ SNAP Ed will plan and implement the seminars. The brief mini-lessons include tips on increasing fresh fruit and vegetable access. Other topics cover the importance of reducing sugary drinks in our daily diets. An informative display is set up at the site, and clientele are engaged in the lesson through hands-on participation.
The North Plainfield seminars will be offered in two locations: the offices of the North Plainfield Board of Social Services and the North Plainfield Saint Vincent DePaul Food Pantry.
Attendees at the seminars will receive vouchers toward the purchase of fruits, vegetables, and eggs with selected vendors at a farmers market.
This project could not be completed with the collaboration and support of numerous partners. In addition to NJ SNAP Ed, we are grateful for the participation of Bridgewater Department of Health, EmPoWER Somerset, Middle-Brook Regional Health Commission, Morris-Somerset Regional Chronic Disease Coalition, RideWise TMA, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset, Somerset County Department of Health, and Somerset County Planning Division.
Healthier Somerset congratulates the borough of North Plainfield, the first of the three municipalities to adopt a “Complete Streets” policy. They will now receive bike racks for their municipality.
The power of partnership has proven to be the key factor in building success for all of Healthier Somerset’s projects. We invite all Somerset County nonprofit organizations, businesses, schools, and agencies to partner with us in the coming months as we continue in our mission to make Somerset County the healthiest county in New Jersey. For more information, visit www.healthiersomerset.org.
Rebecca Perkins is the project manager for Healthier Somerset.