Let us count the data-driven ways
The month of February is all about heart. Not only do people celebrate Valentine’s Day this month, but it’s also American Hearth Month, a great time to commit to small changes that can lead to a healthy heart. And so Essex County Community Foundation thought February was the perfect time to help your heart feel full by sharing some of the reasons we adore our one true love: Essex County.
Of course there are countless reasons to love our region, many of which cannot be quantified – the joy of a sunset walk on an endless beach, the thrill of learning a new tidbit of local mill or maritime history and the pleasure of fresh picked fruit from a local farm (there are 400 in Essex County!).
But there are also many things to love about Essex County that can be measured, and thanks to our new community leadership initiative, Impact Essex County, ECCF has some numbers that are going to make your heart go pitter-patter for the place you live, work and raise your family.
If your Valentine’s plans include an evening stroll, you have nothing to fear: the trend in Essex County is that, overall, our cities and towns are becoming increasingly safe. Our traffic injury and death rate is down 37 percent (2004-2014). Personal and property crimes are also down, even in many of the cities reporting the highest crime rates. The rate of recidivism has also decreased by 10 percentage points, according to the most recent data. So park your car and head out on foot on Feb. 14, in spite of Old Man Winter.
The Great Outdoors
Speaking of taking a stroll, if your idea of a good time means spending more of it outdoors, you’re going to love this. According to the most recent data, 22 percent – more than 7,100 acres – of land in our region is classified as “protected,” meaning that Essex County is an ideal place to escape the minutia of everyday living and get a glimpse of diverse wildlife; enjoy green, open space and breathe in some clean, fresh air, which by the way is easier these days. In 2015, 84 percent of days with air quality measurements in Essex County were good air days, an increase of 13 percentage points from 2000. So bundle up, take your sweetheart by the hand and head outdoors!
Arts and Culture
In Essex County, there is certainly no shortage of arts and entertainment options for those looking for some culture for a special date night this month. But it’s not just the quantity of local theaters, galleries and museums that make our region a popular date-night destination; it’s also the quality. This is reflected in a reported overall increase in arts revenue in Essex County, up from $137 of revenue per capita in 2009, to $191 in 2012. Many cities and towns in Essex County are considered destinations for arts and culture and this unique facet of our region brings us distinction and financial vitality.
February is American Heart Month. And though there is still work to be done in Essex County to get our tickers in tip-top shape, the good news is that we are making great progress in heart health. From 2000-2014, the mortality rate from heart disease has declined by 37 percent. Since heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., this trend suggests that your Valentine’s sweetie is less likely to die of a broken heart.
A Love of Learning
It’s no secret that education is instrumental to a successful and fulfilling life, and in Essex County, we’re prioritizing the commitment to learning. About 87 percent of the 2011 high school cohort graduated in 2015, up 10 percentage points from the cohort of 2006. While the high-poverty districts of Lawrence and Lynn reported significantly lower graduation rates, they achieved the largest gain since 2006: a 31-point increase. This is good news for the health of our workforce and the quality of life of our residents since high school graduation is the gateway to college or successful employment. Oh and by the way, unemployment is declining in Essex County too and really, who doesn’t love that?
These are just some of the reasons to love Essex County. There are certainly many more. But at Essex County Community Foundation, we know our region faces many struggles too. This is why in 2016, ECCF launched Impact Essex County, which aims to tackle some of the most critical needs in our 34 cities and towns. To see all of the data, and to discover where Essex County shines and where it struggles, visit ECCF’s new data website, www.impactessexcounty.org. To learn more about how we plan to use the data, and the entire leadership initiative, visit www.eccf.org/impact-essex-county.