Sun Editorial: Improving New Jersey health

New Rutgers study looks at health equity across state

Across the state of New Jersey, there is a vast health disparity. Whether because of differences in health insurance, access to quality health care or a number of other contributing factors, state residents are not starting or ending in the same place when it comes to their health.

The Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research at Rutgers University is aiming to find out what is causing these differences. The institute’s new study (it’s currently in the design phase and should begin in 2020) hopes to improve health equity in the state by creating a better understanding of what influences population health and the ways state policy can improve the situation.

The absence of health equity can – literally – be the difference between life and death. According to Rutgers, neighboring communities within our state can have vastly different life expectancies. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s U.S. Small-area Life Expectancy Estimates Project takes it even further, calculating a possible disparity from one street to the next within the same town.

What drives these differences? What determines a different life expectancy within the same state, the same county or the same town? Whether due to social, economic, cultural or geographic differences – or something else – Rutgers is aiming to find out.

To achieve true health equity, everyone needs to be equipped to be successful from the start. This may feel like an insurmountable undertaking, but Rutgers’ study could be the first step in driving state policy in the right direction.