As the elections approach, and the focus is mostly on national races, we should remember how much of an impact our local leaders can have in our communities. Every day we see how dedicated mayors and public health officials are making a difference in the health and wellness of their communities.
Mayors throughout New Jersey participate in the Quality Institute’s Mayors Wellness Campaign (MWC), in partnership with the New Jersey League of Municipalities. These elected officials, supported by local volunteers, create programs that make their towns and cities healthier places to live, work, and play. These grass roots efforts vary based on local needs.
At the Quality Institute, we survey the mayors and conduct 21 county-based focus groups each year to obtain a clearer sense of their health priorities. We respond by updating our tools and resources. This year, for instance, we created new tools — Food Security and Land Use Planning — for communities focused on Social Determinants of Health.
For the third year in a row, we heard that mayors’ top concern is mental health. That’s why we expanded our Mental Health First Aid training program, which provides training to community leaders throughout New Jersey. Like CPR, which helps a person assist someone having a heart attack, this training enables people to help someone experiencing a mental health or substance abuse crisis. It also provides trainees with local resources and works to destigmatize issues surrounding mental health.
Mayors, members of law enforcement, municipal employees, public health officers and residents have completed these trainings, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Here’s a powerful example. In one community, a resident posted a comment on the township social media page suggesting they might harm themselves. Because the Township Manager had participated in the training, the manager felt equipped to reach out to the resident and connect the individual to the appropriate services. The training provided the manager with confidence to address the situation. Our trainings are filled for 2022, but anyone who is interested can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to register for Mental Health First Aid Training next year. The training sessions are scheduled for January 12, March 8, April 13, and May 4. And more mental health resources can be found in our MWC Mental Health Toolkit.
The Quality Institute team and our MWC leaders also look forward to seeing everyone at the League of Municipalities Conference November 15-17 in Atlantic City. Please visit us at booth #107 in the Exhibitor Hall and attend the two events we are hosting:
- November 15, 2:00 to 3:30 pm, Panel Session: Bringing Wellness to Your Community with the MWC. You’ll hear “how-to” information from mayors already running successful campaigns and from me. The discussion is in Room 414.
- Our “Chat with the Commissioner” event with New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli on Wednesday, November 16, at 10 a.m. at our booth, #107.
Mayors can use their voice and position — their bully pulpit — to champion health and wellness. We saw local elected officials and community leaders step up throughout the pandemic, and we know that momentum can continue.
Each year, we ask mayors to sign their annual pledges to recommit to the program and pledge to become even more active partners in the health and wellness of their communities. Mayors can visit our booth to sign the pledge, pick up a MWC Handbook, and meet our team. We also want towns proud of their existing programs to pick up the application to earn the prestigious Healthy Town awards for 2022.
Each MWC is as unique as each town. Each varies in scope, size, and focus. But wherever you are, the Quality Institute is ready to help you get your town in motion.
The creativity of New Jersey’s community leaders inspires me. The willingness of mayors and volunteers to share ideas, programs, and resources strengthens all our collective efforts to improve the health and wellness of people throughout our state. I look forward to meeting mayors and community leaders at the League conference. If you can’t be there, but want to work with the MWC, reach out to me at email@example.com to learn more about how your town can join MWC or how you can support this important initiative. A special thank you to our MWC 2022 sponsors, listed below.