Morris County Ranked Healthiest in New Jersey
Morris County has once again been ranked as the Number 1 healthiest county in New Jersey in an annual, national study released this week by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
“This is wonderful and welcome news, and I think we earned it. The report says Morris County ranked very well on many factors, such as a long life-expectancy, high education levels and opportunities for social associations, while having some of the lowest rates in New Jersey of unemployment, violent crime and child poverty,” said Tayfun Selen, Director of the Morris County Board of County Commissioners.
The 2022 County Health Rankings, a national study of counties in all 50 states, annually places Morris County at the top of the list. The study analyzes community factors like crime, education, environmental health, financial success, disease and mortality rates, lifestyle habits, and the availability of nutritional foods, medical care, and exercise opportunities.
“The County Health Rankings model illustrates a broad vision for health. The model shows that policies and programs at the local, state and federal levels play an important role in shaping health factors that in turn, influence a community’s health outcomes. By implementing strategies that target the specific health challenges of a community, there is an opportunity to influence how long and how well people live,” the report notes.
Morris County has much lower rates of adult smoking, obesity, alcohol-impaired driving deaths, sexually transmitted diseases, and teen births than the state average. The county also has a lower rate of unemployment than the state average and has significantly fewer children in poverty than the state’s average.
Morris County has significantly higher rates of high school completion and college participation, as well as vaccinations, mammography screenings, and engagement in physical activities.
Read the full report on Morris County here.
“We’re naturally appreciative and proud of this continuous top ranking as the healthiest county in New Jersey. Most people who live here already know we are one the best places anywhere to work, raise a family and live, and that did not happen by chance,” said Commissioner Deputy Director John Krickus. “Morris County can point to generations of residents who have worked and pursued opportunities for themselves and their children by increasing the quality of education, creating a strong economy and employment opportunities, leading New Jersey in open space preservation and with the number one county park system.”
The Board of County Commissioners cited a few recent pursuits undertaken to maintain public health, including:
- Continued protection of open space, 17,682 acres to date, and enhancement of the largest county park system in New Jersey, with over 20,394 acres of parkland, 38 recreational facilities, and more than 253 miles of trails.
- Long-term investments in education, specifically the County College of Morris and the Morris County Vocational School District (MCVSD) to enhance skills development, improve the career opportunities and incomes of the local labor force, and attract business investments.
- The MCVSD will be expanded by 30 percent after construction begins this year on the district’s new Career Training Center on the college campus, which is designed to provide students and adults with the technical skills demanded by the state’s leading industry clusters.
- Morris County is consistently ranked as having the lowest or second-lowest unemployment rate
Morris County’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic was heralded as a model in New Jersey by state officials and financial rating houses alike.
- Emergency management leaders strategically distributed personal protection equipment, and set up and operated regional vaccination centers and local testing sites
- Launched several programs to assist the county’s most vulnerable populations with access to food, shelter, healthcare, vaccines, and testing
- Created a task force to continuously examine the economic and financial impact of the pandemic, resulting in rating houses continuously maintaining Morris County’s AAA rating.
“We are proud to be ranked number one in the state. When human services, public health and healthcare collaborate, there is greater opportunity to identify and address social determinants of health at the local level, and promote health equity” said Laura O’Reilly Stanzilis RN, Executive Director of the North Jersey Health Collaborative, who also sits on the Morris County Human Services Advisory Council and works with area nonprofits.
The annual, national report concluded that factors such as employment opportunities and resulting income directly impact the type of health factors that led Morris County to the top of New Jersey’s rankings. It also states that local, state, and federal policies and programs can have a major impact on the overall health of a community.
“There is a wide range of policies, programs, systems, and environmental changes that can make a difference locally. Some interventions target individual behaviors, such as influencing dietary choices, exercise levels, or alcohol consumption. Other strategies try to tackle systems and structures, such as enhancing opportunities for education, stimulating economic development, and increasing neighborhood safety,” the report states.
“Health factors represent things that, if modified, can improve length and quality of life. They are predictors of how healthy our communities can be in the future. The four health factor areas in the model include Health Behaviors, Clinical Care, Social & Economic Factors, and Physical Environment. Health outcomes represent how healthy a county is right now. They reflect the physical and mental well-being of residents through measures representing the length and quality of life typically experienced in the community,” the report states.
Are you proud of your town? How can Morristown be healthier and what other programs may better benefit the health and safety of our fellow residents? Let us know in the comments.