Population Health and Wellness

According to the U.S. Census, South Jersey is home to more than 2.4 million residents. Its eight counties span rich geography full of multifaceted industries and economies, as well as diverse communities—all of which play a role in overall health, and health disparities, throughout the region.

In this area, WRI focuses on population health, or “the health outcomes of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group.” WRI conducts research, collects and analyzes data, and translates the findings for use by a broad range of stakeholders. We apply this knowledge toward policy development and program implementation. In turn, we evaluate policies and programs for effectiveness, further contributing to the research base available to decision-makers and practitioners.

Our work connects those who need it with the objective research and guidance necessary to make informed decisions about population health policy and program implementation. WRI is also a sought-after backbone organization with a strong history of facilitating collaborative population health and wellness initiatives.


Current and Ongoing Projects

Community Conversations: New Jersey’s COVID-19 Storytelling Project

Community Conversations: New Jersey’s COVID-19 Storytelling Project is a statewide, collective ethnography designed to gather and transform the personal accounts of New Jersey residents, especially those who have faced increased marginalization or greater risk as a result of the pandemic, into the building blocks of a more resilient, compassionate and Healthy New Jersey.

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RWJF County Health Data analysis and modeling

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is currently funding a project aimed at examining county health rankings using Bayesian modeling to see how different upstream determinants affect local counties in southern New Jersey. WRI Faculty Director, Sarah Allred, Ph.D., will create a complex model that will illuminate potential factors accounting for health disparities among local counties.

Human Services Needs Assessments in Camden County

WRI joins the Community Planning and Advocacy Council (CPAC) in Camden County as its research partner, focused on evaluating services and needs.

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Partnering with the Overdose Fatality Review Team

WRI is partnering with the Cumberland County Overdose Fatality Review Team (CCOFRT) to analyze opioid misuse and overdose fatalities in Cumberland County.

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Preparing HeroConnect for the Future

WRI is partnering with Deborah Heart and Lung Center and Cooper University Health Care to help align HeroCare Connect with the MISSION Act.

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Human Services Needs Assessments in Burlington and Salem Counties

WRI is partnering with the Human Services Advisory Councils (HSAC) in Burlington and Salem Counties to assess services and local needs.

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Evaluating Integrated Care for Veterans

WRI is partnering with Deborah Heart and Lung Center and Cooper University Health Care as the evaluator on its Integrative Health Care for veterans, military and first-responders program.

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Veterans Helping Veterans

A new partnership between Rutgers School of Nursing-Camden (RSNC) and WRI has resulted in federal funding for an innovative new program for military veterans to become nurses and provide primary care to other veterans.

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Planning for Regional Drug and Alcohol Prevention

WRI has partnered with The Southwest Council to provide strategic planning support for drug and alcohol prevention coalitions in Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties.

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South Jersey Community Health Needs Assessment

WRI has conducted community health needs assessments for the South Jersey Health Collaborative in Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester counties.

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Opioid Abuse Jail Diversion Program Planning and Evaluation

WRI is working with Camden County Correctional Facility to plan and evaluate their opioid abuse diversion program, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice.

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The Latest


SJIPH announces new funding initiative

SJIPH is now accepting proposals for innovative, shared research projects between Rowan University and Rutgers University-Camden researchers and community-based organizations in Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Cumberland, Salem, Atlantic, and Cape May Counties. Grants will be made up to $20,000.

Community Conversations: New Jersey’s COVID-19 Storytelling Project

WRI is partnering on a statewide, collective ethnography designed to gather and transform the personal accounts of New Jersey residents, especially those who have faced increased marginalization or greater risk as a result of the pandemic, into the building blocks of a more resilient, compassionate and Healthy New Jersey.

WRI Working Paper: Listening, Providing, Evolving

Given the uncertainty that families face because of the public health and economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, direct service work has become indispensable. WRI developed a qualitative evaluation project early in the pandemic to examine the range of responses from a group of direct service organizations as they acknowledged, responded to, and worked to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on the families and communities they serve.


Reports and Resources

Timing County Hospital Bed Shortfall during COVID-19

This follow-up brief updates the previous COVID-19 model and predicts when demand for hospital beds will first surpass capacity in each of the 21 New Jersey counties based on responses to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Executive summary // data (moderate) // data (strong) // graphic

Regional Health System Shortfalls with a Novel COVID-19 Model

Estimating when the peak need for hospital beds will occur, the number of available hospital beds in each county, and by how much the demand for hospital beds will exceed capacity in each county based on responses to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Executive summary // full data profile // technical data // graphic // county curves.

South Jersey Health Needs: Connections, Community, and Care

Following more than 18 months of data collection and analysis from two comprehensive community health needs assessments commissioned by five hospital networks in collaboration with health departments across five South Jersey counties, WRI researchers released a report detailing an important finding about health in South Jersey: residents’ physical and mental health are surprisingly strongly predicted by their connections to the people and places surrounding them.

Download the document

Community Health Needs Assessments

WRI partnered with several hospital systems in the region to research, facilitate and compile two Community Health Needs Assessments (CHNA).

Download the documents here

Don't Sugarcoat It: Diabetes Prevention Services in Southern New Jersey

“Don’t Sugarcoat It” examines South Jersey’s coming type 2 diabetes tsunami, prevention efforts, and management and treatment resources, and provides policy recommendations to stem the tide.

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Public Health Coalitions in South Jersey

This report examines the operations and efficacy of public health coalitions working to improve health in Southern New Jersey. It details alignment of goals, successes, and challenges of these coalitions relative to trends in key health indicators, and notes priorities for the region. The report draws from the County Health Rankings, community health assessments and interviews with key coalition leaders.

Download the document

Southern New Jersey County Health Data and Rankings

The County Health Rankings are based on a model of population health that emphasizes the many factors that, if improved, can help make communities healthier places to live, learn, work and play. The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation uses this model to rank the health of New Jersey’s counties and of State’s across the country.

Download the document

Related Projects

Camden School District Secondary Counseling Evaluation

The Secondary Counseling Education Program aims is to reduce suspensions and disruptive student behaviors, and to increase student proficiencies, through increased mental health services in the Camden School District. WRI provided process evaluation, assessing the implementation of the program. The evaluation tracked the opportunities, successes, obstacles, and concerns of program implementation through focus groups and interviews with teachers, students, parents and key personnel.

Center for Family Services Peer Recovery Center Evaluation

The Center for Family Services contracted WRI to evaluate its Living Proof Recovery Center from inception to three years out. The Living Proof Recovery Center aims to help people find, maintain and enhance their recovery from alcohol, drug, and other addictions through peer-driven support, sober recreation and educational opportunities. The Center intends to: 1) increase abstinence outcomes, 2) prevent lapses from becoming relapses, 3) reduce attrition in affiliation rates sobriety-based support groups, and 4) enhance recovery capital (e.g., employment, school enrollment, stable housing, healthy family and extended family involvement, sobriety-based hobbies, financial resources) and self-defined quality of life. Additionally, Living Proof provides specialized services for the deaf and hard of hearing community, as well as women with children.

WRI examined Center policies, practices, and operations, and identified challenges and ways the Center manages these challenges. The study found that the Center has a “sense of family” environment with staff, peer recovery coaches, and volunteers seen as approachable, friendly, and present for those in recovery. In particular, the peer recovery coaches are viewed as valuable resources, who often go above and beyond to meet the needs of those in recovery. WRI concludes that The Center is engaged in life changing work that is having a positive effect on the lives of members who regularly attend and avail themselves of Center services.

Food Bank of South Jersey Healthy Living Initiative Evaluation

WRI evaluated the Food Bank of South Jersey’s (FBSJ) Healthy Living Initiative. The Initiative incorporates cooking courses for children, teens, adults, and families to increase healthy eating behaviors and cooking skills in South Jersey. WRI assessed the relevance, effectiveness, impact, and sustainability of the courses and provided recommendations to help FBSJ effectively plan and implement future programming. Through focus groups with past participants and surveys of randomly sampled past participants, as well as a sample of non-participating families who are served by FBSJ, WRI examined the program’s impact on skills learned (healthy cooking, label reading, and mindful shopping), the retention of nutrition concepts, and healthy behaviors over time.

Live Healthy Salem County Coalition

The Live Healthy Salem Coalition is a partnership of public, private, and nonprofit organizations focused on improving health outcomes for the residents of Salem County, NJ including the United Way of Salem County (lead agency) and 19 other organizations and agencies across the county. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, New Jersey Health Initiatives funded effort encourages communities to address health issues holistically. The Coalition’s mission is to inspire residents to live healthy, productive lives by enhancing opportunities that lead to a sustainable culture of wellness.

WRI worked as a neutral convener and facilitator, and provided technical and research assistance. WRI supported the Coalition in identifying gaps in service and regional duplications as they relate to the determinants of health outcomes and developing programs, policies and practices to address the identified gaps. The Coalition utilized data from United Way of Salem County’s Needs Assessment, conducted by WRI, the 2015 Community Health Needs Assessment funded by Inspira Health Network, and RWJF’s County Health Rankings – identifying three priority areas: 1) mental and behavioral health, 2) obesity and chronic diseases, and 3) substance abuse. The Coalition completed a Blueprint for Action, identifying programs, practices and policies to address these priorities.

Medical Legal Needs Assessment

In conjunction with Rutgers Law School in Camden, WRI completed a legal needs assessment of patients at the Cooper Rowan Clinic (CRC) and Camden Coalition of Healthcare providers (CCHP) Link2Care Initiative. WRI was contracted to determine the legal needs of patients at these locations, conducting focus groups and surveys with staff members at both sites as well surveys targeted at better understanding medical patients’ needs and research into national trends. Findings include:

• Patients at both locations had similar needs, which included assistance paying for medical bills, access to health care, and securing stable housing.

• Legal problems can impede a patient’s ability to follow medical directives, especially in vulnerable and disadvantaged regions.

• Camden City and neighboring areas would benefit from the development of a Medical-Legal Partnership (MLP), a national model of care backed by research and documented success. MLPs detect and address legal issues that impact the health and well-being of individuals.