The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how understaffed and underfunded New Jersey’s public health workforce is, as state, county, and local staff members struggle to stand at testing sites, trace contacts of infected people, track disease trends, and educate the public about vaccines. , and immunization. As much as possible and distribute treatments quickly and fairly.
They tried valiantly, but nearly 35,000 people have died from COVID in New Jersey, and at least 2.7 million have been infected. The state’s death rate from COVID was the ninth highest in the United States, making it the only mid-Atlantic or Northeastern state in those unfortunate 10 places.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will now provide $1 million to Acenda Integrated Health, a Glasboro-based nonprofit, to develop a public health institute to help recruit and train New Jersey public health workers, collect and analyze health data and set policies for the future. .
For far too long, public health in New Jersey has been chronically underfunded, leaving agencies short of adequate resources to handle routine tasks, not to mention the crisis, said Maisha Simmons, director of the New Jersey Grant Grants Foundation.
She said the institute would be the first in the country whose primary goal is to “promote health equity”. The New Jersey-based foundation, the nation’s largest health charity, has focused in recent years on creating a “health culture” across the country that enables people to thrive no matter who they are, their income or where they live. One aspect of this is the development of a stronger public health infrastructure.
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The foundation said that the primary goals of New Jersey’s planned Public Health Institute will be to address racial and ethnic disparities in the state in terms of access to health care and to coordinate across multiple state jurisdictions to craft a more effective response to health needs. These challenges were identified as significant after recent research by the Blostein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. In addition, the institute can attract funding from the federal government and large charities.
Another 33 states already have institutes of public health, but New Jersey lacks one.
The state health department was involved in planning for the institute. “We look forward to continuing to explore how the Institute of Public Health will build on the progress New Jersey has made in advancing health equity and innovations, helping to reduce New Jersey health disparities and addressing the social determinants of health,” said Judith Persicelli, state health commissioner.
Public health work is often invisible to the audience it serves. While most people think in terms of individual medical needs for doctor’s care or prescription medications, public health works behind the scenes to prevent disease, make the environment safer and improve the health of residents. Inspections of restaurants and swimming pools, for example, help prevent food or waterborne illness. Children’s vaccination clinics and lead paint testing help keep people healthy. Efforts to designate bike lanes or improve the safety of public parks create environments that encourage outdoor exercise and play.
COVID-19 was a crisis that demonstrated how unprepared local health departments are to deal with a major public health crisis, after years of funding cuts and staff losses. In fact, most cities in New Jersey don’t have their own health departments anymore, and instead contract for services with neighboring county governments, regional federations, or municipalities. The Rutgers study found that the state has fewer than half of public health workers per capita in Connecticut, Massachusetts or Maryland.
Acenda Integrated Health has been involved in a variety of public health initiatives, including efforts to reduce black maternal and infant mortality. The two-year grant will enable him to appoint a diverse board of directors for the institute and appoint a CEO, among other duties.
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