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.
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“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.