Originally published in The Daily Journal
Health equity is achieved when every person has the opportunity to attain his or her full health potential.
In Vineland, the well-being of our residents is threatened every day due to chronic diseases such as epidemic diabetes and poor disease management, accompanied by an increased burden of cardiovascular disease. Vineland children are also more likely to be overweight or obese compared to other children around the country. The rate of overweight or obesity is highest among our children ages 6 to 11 (40 percent vs. 21 percent nationally).
The solution is not to control or dictate what people eat but rather to expand the wealth of options available. As a community, we can improve access to fresh food and recreation so it’s easier for families to make healthy choices. Studies have proved that expanded opportunities can lead to a healthier community.
Thanks to a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that began five years ago, the New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Vineland (NJPHK-V) embarked on a major initiative to help reduce childhood obesity and make our community a healthier place to live, work, learn and play.
By focusing on policy and environmental change, we have made significant progress in ensuring Vineland families have access to healthy choices. Our successes include creating bike lanes; sponsoring monthly fun and fitness events in the business district during spring and summer months; securing commitments from several Vineland corner stores and restaurants to provide healthier product choices; assisting with the development of a wellness policy and creating a wellness council in the Vineland public school district benefiting nearly 10,000 students.
While we celebrate our accomplishments, we must keep in mind the road ahead. There’s still much left to do. Now, as a result of a $450,000 grant from the Partnerships to Improve Community Health, which is funded by the Center for Disease Control, NJPHK-V can take a much bigger step towards wellness. The $450,000 is an initial grant toward a three-year award of $1.35 million and will allow us to expand our efforts to help reduce chronic diseases such as obesity and address environmental factors contributing to health disparities that currently affect nearly 75 percent of all Vineland residents. That’s great news for Vineland residents.
As part of the “Collective Impact for Health Equity in Vineland City” initiative, NJPHK-V was proud to partner with the Vineland Health Department, Family Health Initiative, Stockton College and the Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA to win the grant. We will continue to work with these partners and others within Vineland to advance health equity. Within three years, our goal is to have healthier food choices in more corner stores, increased access to physical activity for children, and improved opportunities for the prevention of chronic diseases through clinical and community linkages.
I personally want to thank all of our partners who are helping us improve the health and well-being of Vineland residents. Together, we are striving to build a culture of health that will enable all Vineland residents to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come.
MS, Project Manager
New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Vineland