Apr 4, 2018 RWJBarnabas Health Targets Social Needs To Improve Health; First In Nation To Combine Policy Efforts With Outreach

Social Impact and Community Investment Department Established to Spearhead System-wide Emphasis on Local Hiring, Purchasing and Investing Initiatives as well as Focus on Social Determinants of Health

West Orange, New Jersey, April 4, 2018 – RWJBarnabas Health (RWJBH) is accelerating its efforts to address the social determinants of health through its new Social Impact and Community Investment Department. The ambitious initiatives underway at RWJBarnabas Health aim to eliminate disparities, enhance equity and create social and physical environments that promote good health.

Social determinants of health are the conditions in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship and age that factor into general health, including economic stability, education, access to healthy food, affordable housing and safe living environments. RWJBH is effecting change through initiatives aimed at impacting both the individual and broader public policy.

“It is essential for health care providers to play a leadership role in addressing systemic inequities that prevent people from good health. While it could take generations before we see the full impact of our efforts, we regard this as our most important work,” said Barry H. Ostrowsky, President and Chief Executive Officer of RWJBarnabas Health. “We will hold ourselves responsible for the long-term well-being of our citizens. In partnership with our communities, we will improve the population’s overall health, support the betterment of our citizens’ day-to-day lives and ignite a critical, positive, cohesive change in our communities.”

The Social Impact and Community Investment Department (SICI) at RWJBH is a unique collective impact approach to building communities’ whole health, and a key driver of the system’s mission. A wide spectrum of initiatives are being co-designed alongside communities within the RWJBH footprint, aimed at eliminating health care disparities and addressing social determinants of health.

Priorities for interventions were determined from recommendations and research studies from a wide range of local, national and international sources as well as through the direct input of our communities through community advisory boards and via partnerships with traditional and non-traditional community-based organizations. The SICI intervention pillars focus the system’s efforts on Education, Economic Stability, Neighborhood and Built Environment, Employee Engagement and Volunteerism, and Global Health.

The system’s practice is distinct from other efforts because it is led by the policy arm. RWJBH believes that to have a long-term, sustainable impact on the community, it is necessary to make long-term changes through municipal, state or federal policies.

Michellene Davis, Esq., Executive Vice President and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer for RWJBH, created and leads the SICI Department across the system. “RWJBarnabas Health is proud to serve richly diverse communities across New Jersey. We recognize that there are certain socially constructed barriers impacting the health outcomes of the families that we aim to serve. As a member of the communities in which we are located we aim to be both in and of these communities by co-designing long term sustainable solutions through a collective impact model with non-traditional and traditional partners,” said Ms. Davis.

Ms. Davis continued “We are laser-focused on strategies that address needed changes in systems, structures and policy that will impact the long-term health and well-being of our neighbors who are food insecure, who encounter challenges in access to safe neighborhoods and healthy environments, equitable educational resources or stable employment. Each of RWJBarnabas Health’s efforts in this space builds upon each other to amplify our system’s direct impact within the communities we serve.”

Ms. Davis also oversees the areas of Policy Development and Government Affairs, External

Affairs, Healthy Living and Community and Employee Wellness and Engagement and Global Health. She also created RWJBH’s Women’s Leadership Alliance and the Corporate Institute for Internship.

One critical shift for the system is recognizing that RWJBH facilities are anchor institutions, and vital economic engines in their communities. Local community health improvement means that the system is embedding into core business areas, including hiring, purchasing and investment practices. As example, RWJBH has engaged every segment of its corporate assets to not only purchase directly from locally-owned businesses, with a primary equity focus on local Minority and Woman-Owned Business Enterprises, but to encourage vendors to subcontract with local businesses, provide goods for their services from local MWBEs and incorporate these practices into their businesses.

To further its anchor mission, the system is a founding member of the Healthcare Anchor Network, a national collaborative of health care systems sharing best practices in this space, and sharing a policy and communications platform to effect change across the nation.

Following are several of the many initiatives driven by the mission and pillars of the SICI Department:

  • Employee Engagement and Volunteerism -- SICI Service Rally

As a core component of the system’s mission, during the week of January 15 – 19, 2018, more than 400 employees together served their communities at a grassroots level during the first of many volunteer opportunities that revolved around the SICI practice ‘s intervention pillars and included activities such as serving meals at a food pantry (food insecurity), assembling trauma relief kits for the US Virgin Islands (Global Health) and hygiene kits for local organizations (housing security).

  • Economic Stability -- Food Insecurity

Recognizing the need to expand access to all community members, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center’s (NBIMC) greenhouse and farmers market recently became the state’s first hospital-based vendor to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. RWJBH has connected the dots between access to healthy food and health outcomes, and, as a result, has established a greenhouse, which provides more than 5,000 pounds of fresh fruit and produce to an area in Newark designated a food desert. Produce grown at the Beth Greenhouse is sold at a weekly farmer’s market located in NBIMC’s lobby. The Beth Greenhouse format will be replicated across the RWJBarnabas Health system at other key sites where access to nutritious, affordable food is a community need, including Jersey City, Toms River, and New Brunswick.

  • Economic Stability – Youth Workforce

Youth Workforce Development is grounded in the premise that healthier communities require stable economic resources. As a result, the current efforts of the RWJBH Corporate Institute for Internship, sponsorship of the Newark Summer Youth Employment program and other internship programs hosted across the system shall be enhanced to achieve promising career pathways and viable employment with special emphasis on back office and front line careers in the health care sector, urban agriculture, construction and entrepreneurship. This pillar of the Department aims to create a collaborative effort with business and industry partners, schools, and community and 4-year colleges to create awareness and workforce preparation opportunities as well as provide on-the-job training and mentorships for participating youth.

  • Global Health – Puerto Rico Outreach

The Global Health office directs SICI medical global affairs initiatives which aim to advance medical best practices and health equity in the United States and around the world. As example, in late fall, RWJBH physicians and care teams conducted an assessment trip and three relief missions to Puerto Rico where they provided critical medical care, equipment and supplies to hurricane victims of the ravaged island in hospitals and mobile clinics.

About RWJBarnabas Health
RWJBarnabas Health is the most comprehensive health care delivery system in New Jersey, with a service area covering five million people. The system includes eleven acute care hospitals – Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville, Community Medical Center in Toms River, Jersey City Medical Center in Jersey City, Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus in Lakewood, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, RWJUH- New Brunswick, RWJUH- Somerset in Somerville, RWJUH- Hamilton, RWJUH- Rahway and Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston; three acute care children’s hospitals and a leading pediatric rehabilitation hospital (Children’s Specialized Hospital), a freestanding 100-bed behavioral health center, trauma centers, a satellite emergency department, ambulatory care centers, geriatric centers, the state’s largest behavioral health network, comprehensive home care and hospice programs, fitness and wellness centers, retail pharmacy services, a medical group, multi-site imaging centers and an accountable care organization.

RWJBarnabas Health is New Jersey’s largest private employer – with more than 33,000 employees, 9,000 physicians and 1,000 residents and interns – and routinely captures national awards for outstanding quality and safety.

About RWJBarnabas Health Social Impact and Community Investment Department (SICI)
RWJBarnabas Health’s SICI Department is effecting change through collective impact, working with non-traditional and traditional collaborative partners to benefit the individual and the community. SICI is led by its policy arm, as the system believes that sustainable, long-term change can only be effectuated through policy changes at the federal, state and local level. The practice includes a wide spectrum of community outreach programs, national and local partnerships, and initiatives that elevate the quality of life of individuals and communities.

Contact: Carrie Cristello