Belmar and Fort Lee Named New Jersey Healthy Towns to Watch
PRINCETON — The New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute today announced that two
municipalities, Beachwood and Jersey City, are designated as this year’s New Jersey Healthy
Towns by the Mayors Wellness Campaign, a program of the New Jersey Health Care Quality
Institute in partnership with the New Jersey State League of Municipalities.
Two other towns, Belmar and Fort Lee, have been named Healthy Towns to Watch.
The Mayors Wellness Campaign (MWC) began in 2006 in partnership with the NJ State League
of Municipalities to leverage local leadership to prioritize health and wellness in communities
statewide. Today, MWC has grown to nearly 380 municipalities—two-thirds of the state’s 565
“We know that our mayors have the power to play a critical role in improving the health of
communities,” said Linda Schwimmer, President and CEO of the New Jersey Health Care Quality
Institute. “What we are seeing on the grass roots level — from community gardens to yoga
classes to supportive conversations about advance directives — is truly exciting. We believe
that strong leadership in towns can strengthen the health of a community.”
The Healthy Town designation recognizes the communities and mayors who have made healthy
lifestyles a top priority, and have innovatively and effectively worked to improve community
In Beachwood, the local Mayors Wellness Campaign is dedicated to giving community residents
affordable and accessible means of improving their health right in Beachwood, and in the
process, create a sense of friendship and support within programs to encourage and motivate
citizens to participate. “We have dedicated people working very hard to get our message and
programs out to the public. I’m extremely excited and proud to be part of this great
accomplishment,” said Mayor Ronald Roma of Beachwood.
Jersey City Mayor Steven M. Fulop called good health the foundation for a strong city. “That’s
why my administration has put such an emphasis on encouraging and supporting healthier
lifestyles. I couldn’t be more proud of our hard-working staff, our community partners who
work with us to support public health, and our city for earning this distinction,” the mayor said.
Aside from the Healthy Town winners, two towns—Fort Lee and Belmar—stood out among the
applicants for their commitment to community health and wellness. “We pledge that the health
and fitness of our residents will continue to be a high priority with many more improvements to
come in the future,” said Mayor Mark Sokolich of Fort Lee.
Upon hearing about the winning towns, Michael Darcy, Executive Director of the NJ State
League of Municipalities, said it was “great news.” He said, “Both of the urban communities
recognized by the Mayors Wellness Campaign have noteworthy development occurring both
residentially and commercially. For them to be able to work in healthy activities is terrific,” he
said. “And the ability of the coastal communities to achieve recognition demonstrates that they
have come through storms and that rebuilding and tourism can be healthy too.”
Read on to see some examples from Mayors Wellness Campaign programming in Beachwood,
Jersey City, Fort Lee, and Belmar.
Highlights from Beachwood’s MWC include:
• Yoga on the Beach—a free beach yoga class for all residents every Saturday morning in
the summer. When the local MWC realized Beachwood didn’t have a local yoga studio,
they brought in a yoga instructor and used public space—the beach—to offer a class for
low-to-no cost for residents.
• Healthy Cooking Classes—Beachwood partnered with their local ShopRite, which
offered space and dietitians to host healthy cooking classes to residents.
• Self-Defense Classes—the local police officers hosted a self-defense class for women of
• Walk and Talk with Mayor Roma—Mayor Roma hosts a weekly walk to get exercise and
engage with his residents.
Highlights from Jersey City’s MWC include:
• Jersey City has focused on increasing healthy food access through afterschool nutrition
programs, Cooking Matters at the Store—tours on healthy shopping at the local grocery
store, Farmers Markets, an Adopt-a-lot community garden program, and a Farm to
Table program with local restaurants.
• The community implemented the Mayors Wellness Campaign’s advance care planning
initiative—Conversation of a Lifetime—in several of their senior housing sites.
• Presidents’ Round Table—they brought together the Presidents of 65 senior groups in
Jersey City for an opportunity to network and exchange resources on improving senior
Highlights from Belmar’s MWC include:
• “Choose Your Cover”—an early detection skin cancer screening program at the local
beach through a partnership with CentraState Health Care System. Volunteer
dermatologists and nurses checked 140 Belmar residents for signs of skin cancer and
provided preventive education.
• “Lessons Learned” – a roundtable with Mayors Wellness Campaign participants and
organizers to periodically identify areas for improvement.
• Pinky Swear—an event for Breast Cancer Mammogram awareness month. At this event,
Belmar broke the Guinness World record for most “pinky swears” with 900 people
Highlights from Fort Lee’s MWC:
• Health Fair: Fort Lee’s annual health fair attracts more than 2000 participants and
includes 70 vendors as well as a vaccination program, obesity prevention and exercise
• Changes to the local environment: in order to make it easier for residents’ to make
healthier choices, Fort Lee hosts a weekly farmer’s market, recently opened three new
public parks, started a community garden, and opened a community ice skating rink.
Captions for attached photos:
About the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute
The New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute is the only independent, nonpartisan, multistakeholder
advocate for health care quality in New Jersey. The Quality Institute’s mission is to
undertake projects and promote system changes that ensure that quality, safety, accountability
and cost-containment are closely linked to the delivery of health care services in New Jersey.
About the Mayors Wellness Campaign
The Mayors Wellness Campaign is a program of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute in
partnership with the New Jersey League of Municipalities. The program empowers mayors