Despite season’s sniffles and aches, NJ is a pretty healthy place | Quigley

The New Jersey Department of Health issued its 2018 health assessment showing improvements in our health status and identifying problems needing to be addressed.

You can probably think of a dozen good reasons you’d love to live in Hawaii – especially on a cold day like this. Well, here’s one more.

United Health Foundation issued its 29th annual review of statistics and declared Hawaii the healthiest state, and not for the first time. Next were Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and Utah. They all ranked in the same order last year. So apparently sunshine, beautiful beaches and warm breezes have little to do with results. California at number 12 was right behind New Jersey at 11 and Florida came in 29th.

Dead last was Louisiana, just after Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Might have something to do with the super-high obesity rates in those states.

So we’re not doing badly.

The New Jersey Department of Health issued its 2018 health assessment showing improvements in our health status and identifying problems needing to be addressed.

Good news is that New Jersey’s suicide rate is significantly below the national average, although Hispanic teens try to kill themselves much more often than other groups but Whites are more likely to die from suicide. White teens smoke more than twice as often as Black kids.

Black deaths from homicide are 15 times higher than others, with the Black 20-to-34 age group 41 times more likely to be homicide victims than same-age Whites or Hispanics.

Asthma continues to be a serious problem for all groups with both youngsters and adults affected, but the highest number of Asthma-related deaths were children under age five.

Sadly, stats on opioid deaths are horrible everywhere but New Jersey opioid overdoses rose 321.5 percent since 2006.

We have made some small improvements in other causes of death, however. A tiny drop in heart disease and a more impressive drop in cancer, diabetes and flu. But deaths from unintentional injuries and Alzheimers are higher.

Teenage births have been dropping steadily but Hispanic teens are ten times more likely to become parents than other groups.   However, the infant mortality rate among Blacks is 3.2 times the White rate and 2.1 times the Hispanic rate.

Blacks with diabetes are outpacing Hispanics and Whites with that disease, but Asians get tuberculosis three times more often than Hispanics, four times more than Blacks and 35 times more than Whites.

For the first time the state assessment acknowledged that mental health is a serious concern in New Jersey, with more people requiring care for a variety of behavioral health issues and a severe shortage of facilities and providers with cultural competence and language abilities.

Data provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation showed zip codes are strong predictors of excess mortality and differences in life expectancy. It seems overall health and well-being are closely related to income and education.

People with higher incomes are more likely to have a primary care physician and get regular check-ups, with timely intervention when trouble strikes. They are also subject to less stress with safer neighborhoods, shorter commutes, and more satisfying jobs.

According to the Department of Health, this assessment is the first step in a two-part process to identify and address the population health needs of the state. Next is to develop a new health improvement plan. Doing that should be relatively easy.

The harder part is finding funding for all the required providers and facilities, as well as waging educational campaigns against obvious health risks like smoking, drug use, and unsafe sex.

Then will come the hardest part of all – persuading all of us to heed the advice of medical professionals, to clean up our air and workplaces, and to help each other get and stay healthy.

A former assemblywoman from Jersey City, Joan Quigley is the president and CEO of North Hudson Community Action Corp.

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