Source: The Daily Journal
Joe Derella didn’t pull any punches when addressing the average health of Cumberland County residents compared to the rest of the state.
“We’re the worst,” Derella, the county’s freeholder director, said. “We’ve been told that numerous times over the last 30 years. We continue to try to make improvements on the health of the residents that we represent and work with every single day.”
That includes the day when county leaders gathered at Sunset Lake beach in Bridgeton City Park to launch Health Watch 2018 and the #TakethePledgeCumberland campaign.
The effort, according to program director Jerry Covella, has two goals: To energize the community about becoming more aware of the health issues facing it and, in turn, seeking to better individual lifestyles; and create a positive view of Cumberland County across the region and on a national level.
When it comes to gaining national attention, the Health Watch 2018 team is counting on help from one of the county’s most recognizable faces — major league baseball player and Vineland native Mike Trout. “Mike and his family are supporting the campaign,” Covella said. “He is serving as honorary chairman and will be the face of #TakeThePledgeCumberland, as our website will reveal. “It is an incredible honor to have his support.”
A Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program study in 2017 found Cumberland County to be 21st out of 21 counties in state health rankings. Areas measured included quality of life, health behaviors (such as smoking, obesity and excessive drinking) and social and economic factors.
On May 23, when organizers of this event hope Cumberland County residents successfully complete Guinness World Record attempts in the Group Health Awareness Lesson – Multiple Venues category in four age brackets: 10-19; adult males 20-64; adult females 20-64; and senior citizens 65 and older. Each age group would be required to simultaneously watch a 30-minute health awareness video.
Bridgeton Mayor Albert Kelly said he plans to buy a kayak to help spark his involvement in the initiative. “We’re opening activities up and encouraging activities for the entire community to get involved someway, somehow, to better the health of our community.”
Health Watch 2018 also recruited the help of local education leaders to help spread the message throughout area school systems. “I’ve been in education for 43 years and I have seen many, many changes,” school superintendent Mary Gruccio says, “and even though we’re not where we need be, we’ve got to keep trying, because health is a major issue for our youth.” Two Vineland High School Interact Club seniors — soccer player Cate Scanlon and tennis team member Tithi Thakkar vowed to do their part in sharing the message at school.
A website for the movement, TakeThePledgeCumberland.com, has just launched. Any donations received will be used to support Cumberland County members of the Cumberland-Salem-Gloucester Health and Wellness Alliance and for deserving Cumberland County students pursuing careers in a health-related field, according to Covella.