Making a Real Impact

Making a real imapact

RWJBarnabas Health is committed to promoting community health, both inside and outside a medical center’s walls.

A child is taken to the emergency department for asthma, is treated and sent home – to an apartment where leaky pipes cause mold that triggers her asthma.

A man is given a prescription for high blood pressure but can’t afford to get it filled.

A woman is counseled about healthy eating to help control diabetes but doesn’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

Because social conditions play a critical role in wellness, RWJBarnabas Health (RWJBH) has ramped up its commitment to communities’ whole health through its Social Impact and Community Investment (SICI) Practice.

Finding what works

‘Traditionally, the way in which institutions like outs have delivered healthcare has been to wait for people to come to us,” says Michellene Davis, Esq. Executive Vice president and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer for RWJBH, who heads the SICI effort. “Now we’re acting on the fact that health disparities begin and continue outside our doors. We’re looking at the whole patient and the context in which he or she lives.”

The range of approaches is broad. “Every RWJBarnabas Health hospital conducts its own community health needs assessment, because each community is unique,” Davis explains. Recent examples of SICI-related efforts include:

  • Buy local: RWJBH has made a deep commitment to buy from local and minority-and women-owned businesses. For example, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center has a contract with Newark vendor Rock Ya Socks to purchase socks for its patients, which has strengthened the vendor’s capacity to grow and expand.
  • Hire local: RWJBH has pledged to hire 350 Newark residents by 2020 as part of the Newark 2020 partnership of local institutions and employers. Jersey City Medical Center’s Career Ladders program, which will soon be adopted system-wide, helps develop a path to promotion for entry-level employees.
  • Invest local: To spur innovation and future investment, RWJBH has invested in’s Newark venture Partners Labs IT innovation center to stimulate to establishment of new business.

Through partnerships, the RWJBH system helps improve community health, reduce disparities and enhance equity, including:

  • Safe and healthy housing: Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital New Brunswick participated in the New Brunswick Healthy Housing Collaborative, designed to work with families to create high-health environments in homes throughout the region. RWJBH is currently in discussions with national, state and local partners to expand its commitment to creating affordable housing in other communities throughout the state.
  • Food security: A Wellness on Wheels mobile greenhouse travels to communities throughout the entire RWJBH region. Additionally, youth in Newark created a documentary, “Food for Thought,” to explore the impact of food insecurity on a community’s health.

Davis believes the SICI effort will inspire and energize not just RWJBH employees, but community members as well.

“People will want to come to an entity that has high-quality, culturally competent clinical care, and at the same time invests in creating good in the world,” she says. “This is about being the change you wish to see in the world. Everyone is welcome to join us on our journey.”

Learn more about RWJBarnabas Health’s social impact initiatives.