Road Map to Better Health in NJ

Joel C. Cantor and Margaret Koller, Photo Credit: NJSpotlight

Expand Access to Affordable Housing for Very Low-Income Households and Increasing Engagement By Hospitals and Health Systems

An April 25, 2019 opinion piece in NJSpotlight, “A Roadmap to better health in New Jersey” highlights a recent report that “recommends evidence-based policy options to address gaps in health and well-being across the state.”

Joel C. Cantor, director of the Rutgers Center for State Health Policy and distinguished professor of public policy at Rutgers University and Margaret Koller, executive director of the Center, authored the opinion piece. Cantor and Koller write about taking “the long view about investing in the well-being of New Jersey residents.”

A new report, “Building a Culture of Health: A Policy Roadmap to Help All New Jerseyans Live Their Healthiest Lives” published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation includes recommendations of policy options to make New Jersey a healthier and more equitable place.

Write Cantor and Koller,

“Our overall health is based on much more than health insurance coverage and access to care. While these things are critical, research has shown they account for only about 20 percent of our overall health. The other 80 percent of our health is determined by the facts of our daily lives — our income and education levels, our family circumstances, where we grew up and where we live now.”

Examples of distressing realities of health disparities across the state include:

“New Jersey’s housing affordability crisis is especially challenging for very low-income families, with nearly three-quarters of them spending more than half of their incomes on housing — leaving very little for other priorities such as food, healthcare, child care, and transportation.”

Think about what a health crisis, job loss, major car repair or loss of childcare does for a household spending more than half of their income on housing.  And also how hard it would be to manage your or your family’s health if you were worrying about or if you had lost your home?

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Rutgers University Center for State Health Policy identified policy options that have proven to be effective in addressing health and well-being in other states:

“Expand access to affordable housing for those most in need by, among other actions, increasing affordable housing production and preservation and encouraging organizations such as hospitals and health systems to develop affordable housing.”

This is just one policy that could create more opportunities for better health for people across New Jersey. And it provides an opportunity for leaders in New Jersey. The New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Authority (NJHMFA) has invited hospitals in the state to participate in a partnership program promoting affordable and supportive housing in their communities.

Under the Hospital Partnership Subsidy Pilot Program, NJHMFA will match funding contributions from participating hospitals to provide much-needed housing for low- and moderate-income families. The developments also must include units set aside for special needs residents and/or frequent users of hospital emergency room services.