Heart health

A $4.8 million federal grant to the New Jersey Department of Health will be used to prevent chronic medical conditions and infant deaths, U.S. senators announced Wednesday.

U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, both D-N.J., said the money will be used to improve the health of residents through preventive health initiatives and reduce health disparities that exist in different socioeconomic groups, races and geographical areas.

“The fact that communities of color suffer poorer health outcomes on everything from chronic conditions to maternal and child health should be deeply troubling to us all,” Booker said in a statement.

The Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will allow state health officials the flexibility to use the money to respond to rapidly emerging health issues and fill in funding gaps in programs that deal with causes of death and disability.

The state Department of Health will focus on the reduction of black infant mortality, and the prevention and control of asthma, diabetes, chronic disease, heart disease and stroke, sexual assault and date rape.

In New Jersey, infant mortality for black babies at 9.7 per 1,000 live births is more than three times the rate among white babies, data show. In some areas of the state, like Atlantic City, that rate is even higher at about 20 black infant deaths per 1,000 live births during the most recent five-year period.

The federal grant money will also go toward community health related to nutrition and physical fitness, immunizations and vaccination, public health infrastructure and quality improvement and screening for sexually transmitted diseases.

“Access to preventative health services can absolutely save lives, and this funding will provide New Jersey with the resources we need to reduce health disparities,” Menendez said in a statement.

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Contact: 609-272-7022 NLeonard@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressNLeonard

Previously interned and reported for Boston.com, The Asbury Park Press, The Boston Globe

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