By: Yuritza Arroyo
The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) will host its First Annual New Jersey Rural Health Conference on November 10 to shed light on the unique healthcare challenges facing rural New Jerseyans and to recognize the innovation, quality of care, and dedication of health professionals and volunteers throughout these communities.
According to NJ officials, the conference, hosted by the NJDOH’s Office of Primary Care and Rural Health, is part of a series of events commemorating the state’s Rural Health Week, on November 14-18 as declared by Governor Murphy, as well as National Rural Health Day – which annually falls on the third Thursday in November, which is November 17 this year.
Officials say, National Rural Health Day recognizes the efforts of those serving the health needs of an estimated 57 million people across the nation, including about 700,000 to 900,000 rural residents in New Jersey, according to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
Rural areas are counties/municipalities where less than 500 people reside per square mile.
There are seven counties (Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, Hunterdon, Salem, Sussex, and Warren) and several municipalities across five other counties (Burlington, Gloucester, Morris, Monmouth, and Ocean) considered to be rural in New Jersey.
New Jersey rural communities encompass nine percent of the state’s population, and this population disproportionately faces health disparities, aging populations, high rates of chronic disease, substance use, and transportation issues.
The conference, themed Advancing Care and Health Equity in Rural Communities,will be held at Rutgers University’s Cook Campus Student Center from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. For more information on the free conference, visit the conference website.
As part of New Jersey’s observance, Zufall Health Center will host a Dental Van Event at Naturally Beautiful Greenhouses in Warren County on November 15and 16.
The week will culminate with the Fourth Annual Rural Oral Health Virtual Conference on November 18, hosted by Zufall Health Center in partnership with the NJDOH Office of Primary Care and Rural Health and other partners, to address the oral health needs of marginalized populations in New Jersey rural communities. Those who wish to attend can register online.
A statewide social media campaign will also encourage community stakeholders to post messages and pictures celebrating rural health providers using the #powerofrural and #ruralhealthday hashtags.
Additionally, the website, powerofrural.org, has been established for rural health stakeholders to explore and showcase individuals and organizations selected as 2022 Community Stars, which highlights those working to address the social determinants of health and improve the lives of those who call rural their home.
The site also provides visitors with various tools, including social media posts. The website also shares how rural communities will celebrate National Rural Health Day.