RWJBarnabas Health Receives $2 Million Grant from the Walmart Foundation

To Implement a Universal Social Determinants of Health Screening for Patients

West Orange, NJ, July 13, 2020 - RWJBarnabas Health has received a $2 Million grant from the Walmart Foundation to pilot a universal social determinants of health screening for patients in select locations across the system. This will complement already existing clinical assessments required for all patients such as weight, temperature and blood pressure screening.

Social determinants of health (SDOH), the economic and social conditions in which people live, work and play, have a major impact on health outcomes. Social determinant of health are things such as proper nutrition, healthy housing, smoking and other substance use, or violence in the home or community. The stress of the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the social determinants for many and has exacerbated already-existing health disparities and inequities for our most vulnerable populations. This has amplified the need for systemic, long-term solutions across the spectrum.

“The Walmart Foundation grant will enhance our efforts to identify existing social determinants, address health inequities and support those who have suffered economically, physically, emotionally and mentally,” said Barry H. Ostrowsky, President and Chief Executive Officer of RWJBarnabas Health. “These funds afford us the opportunity to leverage health care as an access point to serve patients holistically by identifying critical barriers to care such as access to nutritious food for a senior with diabetes, or access to an asthma education program for a parent of a child newly diagnosed with asthma.”

The funding will be used to develop and implement a comprehensive tool to screen all patients for social determinants including accessibility to nutritious food; food security; access to safe, stable housing; educational opportunities; employment status; personal safety; accessibility to transportation; and other social and environmental factors. Using advanced technology, patients will then be “e-prescribed” and connected directly to services and supports as necessary to help meet their needs.

RWJBarnabas Health is working closely with community-based and government organizations including local food banks, housing organizations and nutritionists, to utilize the technology and streamlined processes, whenever possible, to reduce barriers for patients and providers. The screening tool will serve to reengineer how health care and social services work together.

“Addressing food-related health disparities and putting nutritious food into the hands of people that need it most has never been more important,” said Julie Gehrki, vice president of philanthropy for “With this investment, we aim to help drive innovation through the work of RWJBarnabas Health to systematically embed food security into healthcare to deliver better outcomes for the people of New Jersey and beyond.”

Upon successful completion of the pilot, RWJBarnabas Health plans to roll the SDOH screening out across the entire system.

RWJBarnabas Health is the largest, most comprehensive academic health care system in New Jersey, with a service area covering nine counties with five million people. The system includes eleven acute care hospitals; three acute care children’s hospitals and a leading pediatric rehabilitation hospital with a network of outpatient centers, a freestanding 100-bed behavioral health center, two 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 two accountable care organizations. In meeting its mission of creating healthier communities, RWJBarnabas Health seeks to address the clinical and social determinants of health, improve health outcomes, promote health equity, and eliminate health care disparities.

RWJBarnabas Health is in partnership with Rutgers University to create New Jersey’s largest academic health care system. The collaboration will align RWJBarnabas Health with Rutgers’ education, research and clinical activities, including those at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey - the state's only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center - and Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care. To learn more, please visit

About Philanthropy at Walmart represents the philanthropic efforts of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation. By leaning in where the business has unique strengths, works to tackle key social issues and collaborate with others to spark long-lasting systemic change. Walmart has stores in 27 countries, employing more than 2 million associates and doing business with thousands of suppliers who, in turn, employ millions of people. is helping people live better by supporting programs that work to accelerate upward job mobility for frontline workers, address hunger and help make healthier, more sustainably-grown food a reality, and build strong communities where Walmart operates. To learn more, visit or find us on Twitter@walmartorg.

Contact: Carrie Cristello