MORRIS COUNTY, NJ – Morris County has been ranked again as the No. 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 its list. Leading community factors examined in the study are crime, education, environment, financial success, disease and mortality rates, lifestyle habits and the availability of nutritional foods, medical care and opportunities to exercise.
“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.
The Commissioners celebrated the report, adding that the No. 1 ranking is a product of decades of work by committed public servants and residents throughout the county.
“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 the 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. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, residents took refuge there, with park and trails visitation increasing fourfold.
- Long term investments in education, specifically the County College of Morris and the Morris County Vocational School District to enhance skills development, continuously improve the career opportunities and incomes of the local labor force, and to 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 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 because of its business-friendly relationship with leading employers and the educational and employment opportunities created here.
- 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 were recognized for their strategic distribution of personal protection equipment, as well as their successful set up and operation of a regional vaccination center and local testing sites
- the county launched several programs to assist the county’s most vulnerable populations with access to food, shelter, healthcare, vaccines and testing
- the commissioners formed 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 national report concluded that such factors as employment opportunities and resulting income directly impacts the type of health factors that led to Morris County’s top ranking. It also stated 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.