New Jersey Department of Health

PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
November 6, 2023

Kaitlan Baston, MD, MSc, DFASAM
Acting Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

New Jersey Health Department Hosts Second Annual Rural Health Conference

2023 theme: “Building Resilient Rural Communities”

TRENTON – The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) is hosting its second annual New Jersey Rural Health Conference on November 9, bringing together health professionals, community leaders, academia, and government officials to share strategies and resources on integrating and maintaining a sustainable rural health care system. 

The free conference, coordinated by NJDOH’s Office of Primary Care and Rural Health, will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Princeton Marriott at Forrestal. This year’s special guest speaker will be Eduardo Sanchez, MD, Chief Medical Officer for Prevention, with the American Heart Association. Speakers also include Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Kaitlan Baston.

This year’s theme is: “Building Resilient Rural Communities.”

Governor Phil Murphy declared November 13-17, 2023, to be “Rural Health Week,” and National Rural Health Day is observed on November 16, recognizing the efforts of those serving the health needs of an estimated 61 million people across the nation, including about 900,000 rural residents in New Jersey. 

“Improving equitable access to quality health care for every New Jerseyan is a priority.  Through our Office of Primary Care and Rural Health, we have supported, served, and worked with residents in rural communities for nearly 30 years,” said Acting Commissioner Dr. Baston. “This conference not only provides an important opportunity to share information and resources, it also fosters collaboration with other rural health stakeholders and health care professionals providing services and resources for our residents.” 

Rural areas are counties/municipalities where fewer than 500 people reside per square mile, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 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 10 percent of the state’s population, and these residents disproportionately face health disparities including aging populations, lack of access to health care, high rates of chronic disease such as diabetes and heart disease, substance use, and transportation issues.

Among the conference topics are substance use and health services in rural communities; the role of frontline public health workers; public health actions to control and prevent cardiovascular disease; and supporting the health and well-being of immigrants and their families, among others.

NJDOH continues to work to help improve rural health care by implementing strategies in rural communities for tobacco cessation and control; using recruitment tools such as the State’s Loan Redemption Program to incentivize health care providers to work in underserved areas; and working with partners to increase cancer screenings. 

As part of the observances to mark the “Power of Rural,” which brings to light the unique health care challenges facing rural New Jerseyans, Zufall Health Center will host a health and community resource fair targeting vulnerable residents of Sussex County, and Hunterdon Medical Center will be picking cabbage at the “Cabbage Countdown” farm activity with America's Grow-A-Row on Rural Health Day.   

With about 750,000 acres of farms and nearly 250,000 acres of preserved farmland, New Jersey’s agriculture sector is a $1.1 billion industry, and the state is a nationally ranked, top 10 producer of a variety of fruits and vegetables, according to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.

NJDOH has also undertaken a statewide social media campaign to encourage community stakeholders to post messages and pictures celebrating rural health providers using the #powerofrural and #ruralhealthday hashtags.  

For more information about National Rural Health Day, visit

For more information on the conference, visit the conference website.   

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