New Jersey has lifted the state’s public health emergency, and we can all breathe a sigh of relief. We’re re-opening our state just as the earliest signs of spring are beginning to emerge. It’s a time to share our gratitude to those who pushed themselves above and beyond to protect us — and those who put themselves at risk to keep programs, services, and schools operating.
From home health aides to nurses, from teachers to public health officers, many people across the Garden State innovated, adapted, and responded to the changing needs of their patients, students, and communities during the past two years. Due to their work, as a state we have much to be grateful for and will recover. But the pandemic’s impact was uneven across individuals, racial and ethnic groups, professions, and communities. We must recognize these disparities as we move forward.
Watching Governor Murphy’s budget address this week, I was pleased to see needed investments in health care and efforts to address social determinants of health, such as job training and housing. This funding will be essential to address the pandemic’s disparate impact and recognize and address local needs across the state.
Throughout the pandemic, through our Mayors Wellness Campaign (MWC), we saw local leaders more focused than ever on the health needs of their residents. We saw communities create innovative programs to respond to the urgent and changing needs of their residents. Now we have the honor of announcing the 2021 MWC Healthy Town designees. We recognize cities and towns in three categories: Healthy Town (Gold), Healthy Town to Watch (Silver), and Healthy Town Up-and-Coming (Bronze). You can see the 32 designated communities on our website and read about their impressive work to make their communities healthier places to live, work, and play. It was inspiring to receive so many first-time applications this year. It was inspiring to receive so many first-time applications this year.
The pandemic expanded the work of MWCs around the state to include a greater focus on issues such as Mental Health. To further support towns, with support from The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, MWC is launching a mental health toolkit. You can register now for the launch webinar on April 20, where we’ll walk through the toolkit, and you can hear from mental health professionals and community leaders who have led the interventions outlined in the toolkit.
Congratulations to our Healthy Town designees. We encourage our members to work you’re your area mayors and public health leaders to ensure that we emerge from the pandemic healthier across all communities.