Report says changes needed in 13 areas to help close state health gaps.

 
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Byline: Anthony Vecchione

New Jersey leaders should pursue a broad range of policy options to expand opportunity so that everyone in the stateno matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they makecan live the healthiest life possible, according to the results of a new report released Wednesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The Foundation developed the report, Building a Culture of Health: A Policy Roadmap to Help All New Jerseyans Live Their Healthiest Lives with analysts at the Center for State Health Policy and the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, both at Rutgers University.

Informed by extensive research and months of conversations with nearly 300 community residents, nonprofit and business leaders, and others from across the state, the report identifies 13 priorities for building a culture of health in New Jersey in three areas: healthy children and families, healthy communities, high-quality, equitable health and social service systems.

The report is very clear: If we truly want to improve health and well-being in our state, we must make sure that opportunity is there for everyone.

-Dr. Richard Besser, president and chief executive officer of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The recommendations span multiple sectors, including education, housing, nutrition, income, and health care, with a particular focus on health equity, or the principle that everyone should have a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible, regardless of race, place, gender, income or any other factor. Recommendations include providing high-quality early education for all three- and four-year-olds; helping everyone fully benefit from the recently expanded paid family leave benefit; creating and preserving affordable homes; and integrating mental health, addiction, and physical health services for Medicaid enrollees. Each recommendation addresses pressing needs, advances health equity and is supported by evidence.

"The report is very clear: If we truly want to improve health and well-being in our state, we must make sure that opportunity is there for everyone. This is what we mean by health equity,"...

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