Report Recommends Establishing a Public Health Institute to Address New Jersey's Inequities
New Jersey would join other states in improving coordination, collaboration, and resources.
Princeton, N.J.—For New Jersey to be the safest, healthiest, most equitable state possible, it needs to join more than 30 states in creating a public health institute whose mission would include promoting collaboration and building capacity in a system strained by lack of funding and capacity.
Establishing a nonprofit public health institute would be a key part of a reimagined public health system for New Jersey, as recommended by a report released today by the Nicholson Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the National Network of Public Health Institutes in concert with the New Jersey Department of Health.
The report, “Seizing the Moment: How a Public Health Institute Would Advance Health Equity in New Jersey,” caps a 10-month planning process that engaged a wide range of key stakeholders from public health, healthcare, social services, and the faith community.
The report found “two striking situations underscore the need for a public health institute in New Jersey: the state’s racial and ethnic inequities in health outcomes and underinvestment in the state’s public health infrastructure. Both issues were exacerbated because of the impact of the pandemic and need to be incorporated into the public health institute’s development.”
“The nation has always needed a strong public health system, and COVID-19 highlights a current severe capacity limitation. Over the past ten months, we have had a unique opportunity to work with dedicated health professionals and community leaders in New Jersey who want to strengthen the system and address inequities in health outcomes,” said Vincent Lafronza, EdD, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Network of Public Health Institutes. “Public health institutes can add critical muscle to a public-private partnership approach and we are honored to help establish a public health institute in New Jersey. As a former resident of New Jersey, I know firsthand how much is riding on the success of this effort. Let this be our legacy for healthier generations to come.”
Those in the field of public health work to protect and improve the health of people and the communities where they live, learn, work and play. A public health institute would help prevent illness and work toward eliminating health inequities that contribute to glaring health disparities in New Jersey.
“A public health institute could formulate and address broad policy questions with wide-ranging implications for our state’s residents and our state’s public health,” said New Jersey state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “A public health institute would help accelerate collaboration across sectors, advance equity, and provide greater focus on addressing the social determinants of health.”
Key insights underlying the recommendation include:
- New Jersey’s public health infrastructure and system have been strained for decades by lack of funding, insufficient coordination across health and related sectors, and the impact of social and economic determinants of health on New Jersey’s residents.
- New Jersey ranks 31st in the US in state funding for public health, according to the Trust for America’s Health.
- A report produced by the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning & Public Policy at Rutgers University found that New Jersey:
- Has the lowest median per capita state appropriation for public health among states examined in the report.
- Has among the smallest public health workforce per capita among states in the comparison, and only half that of regional neighbors Connecticut, Maryland, and Massachusetts.
- Inadequate funding for New Jersey’s public health infrastructure leads to inadequate staffing at the state and local levels. Though local public health systems are generally responsive to their communities, the system as a whole lacks the capacity to both achieve its core missions and accomplish such responsive tasks as managing COVID response.
The report identifies four potential roles for a public health institute in New Jersey:
- Collaborate within communities to advance health equity through authentic relationships and support capacity building, using a social justice framework
- Function as an assertive, responsive, nimble fiscal and administrative entity to support public health initiatives and health equity
- Serve as a community-driven, trusted, and independent convener that leads the administrative, operational, and strategic efforts in the development of a public health institute
- Support and use an accessible, easy-to-use, modern data infrastructure
New Jersey’s would be the first public health institute in the nation to have advancing health equity as a founding priority.
“A public health institute in New Jersey would be another step in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s commitment to improving health and health equity in our home state,” said Maisha Simmons, RWJF director of New Jersey Grantmaking. “I look forward to the continued partnership, conversations and action to help all New Jerseyans live their healthiest and most equitable life possible.”
About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
For more than 45 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are working alongside others to build a national Culture of Health that provides everyone in America a fair and just opportunity for health and wellbeing. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org. Follow the Foundation on Twitter at www.rwjf.org/twitter or on Facebook at www.rwjf.org/facebook.