Published on NJ.com
By: Times of Trenton Editorial Board
Living in a city can be hazardous to your health.
Researchers have long suspected that environmental factors in many inner-city neighborhoods – communities fortified with bullet-proof glass and barbed wire – greatly affect residents’ emotional and physical well being.
They have documented the dangerous effects of overcrowding and limited access to nutritional foods, and they worry that generations of children in lower-income urban areas are being born at significant risk for diabetes, heart disease and asthma.
Now a welcome $2.5 million grant will help the Trenton Health Team find ways to make the picture a little rosier.
The team represents a collaboration between local hospitals and the city’s health department.
Along with partners such as Capital Health, the Trenton YWCA, and the New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Trenton, among others, team members will use the money to develop an action plan to address issues such as sky-high smoking and childhood obesity rates and a dearth of physical activity opportunities for the city’s residents.
Trinity Health’s Transforming Communities Initiative is providing the grant to Trenton and five other communities nationwide, including Springfield, Mass., and Boise, Idaho.
The Catholic health-care conglomerate, based in Livonia, Michigan, runs facilities in 21 states. It has strongly demonstrated its commitment to communities that are poor and under served.
The funding comes at a time when 39 percent of Trenton’s residents are obese, and 16 percent are living with diabetes, according to figures supplied last year by Mayor Eric Jackson.
Launched in 2006 in the wake of a report commissioned by former mayor Doug Palmer, the health team has racked up some notable achievements, including teaming with 10 faith-based organizations last year to promote healthier eating choices and enhanced physical activity as part of the state Department of Health’s Faith in Prevention initiative.
Highlights of the program have included classes focused on cooking, exercise, food shopping and reading nutrition labels on packaged goods.
The Trinity grant, to be spread over five years, is designed to build on these efforts and others.
“We view this as an important part of our health ministry – bringing preventive and educational services beyond our hospital walls,” says Vince Costantino, chief administrative officer of St. Francis Medical Center, an affiliate of Trinity Health.
Obviously, no one-size-fits-all solution will fix the health-related woes that beset a population such as ours. Like a chronic illness, the situation has developed over many years, and it could take as long to find a cure.
But we’re grateful that administrators, doctors, municipal officials and church leaders are realizing that we can’t wait any longer to get started.