RWJBarnabas Health Leaders Author Book Sharing Significant Strides in Addressing the Social Determinants of Health

Barry H. Ostrowsky and Michellene Davis Release “Changing Missions, Changing Lives: How a Change Agent Can Turn the Ship and Create Impact” with ForbesBooks

West Orange, NJ, September 8, 2020 – In their new book, Changing Missions, Changing Lives: How a Change Agent Can Turn the Ship and Create Impact, published with ForbesBooks, Barry H. Ostrowsky, President and Chief Executive Officer of RWJBarnabas Health, and Michellene Davis, Executive Vice President and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, outline how companies can better themselves and the world at large by describing how they created RWJBarnabas Health’s Social Impact and Community Investment (SICI) practice. The SICI practice, using a policy lens, strives to create healthier communities by working alongside community partners to co-design and implement initiatives aimed at eliminating disparities, advancing equity and addressing social determinants of health.

With the publication of this book, Mr. Ostrowsky and Ms. Davis hope to provide future changemakers with a model to make a lasting, positive impact on the world. Readers will learn the best practices for being in and of the communities they serve, reaching beyond the doors of clinical facilities to become a powerful force for social change, and for maximizing the resources of a traditional health care organization to leverage the power of the community as a catalyst for change.

As the authors describe in the book, RWJBarnabas Health’s social impact focus has made great strides to develop initiatives aimed at elevating the well-being of the communities it serves, while proactively transforming systems that have resulted in inequitable outcomes—health, social, economic, and educational. While the book chronicles the early period of the practice and its efforts in Newark, its prototype city, the efforts of the practice have since extended throughout the region and the System. Efforts have extended geographically and programmatically. For example, in New Brunswick, active efforts have been undertaken to address housing, and the first is the Healthy Housing Collaborative that assesses and remediates homes for unsafe conditions, advocates for tenants’ rights, and changes policies to ensure that landlords are held accountable to rent properties that are safe. Additionally, through the Coming Home Middlesex County program, RWJBarnabas Health and its partners collaborate to identify high-utilizers of the emergency department, correctional facilities, and shelters who are housing insecure, and provide them with housing rental vouchers through the NJ Department of Community Affairs. These two efforts, combined with housing efforts in Newark, Somerset, and Jersey City have allowed RWJBarnabas Health to ensure that over 250 families have safe and affordable housing. The SICI practice has actively addressed food insecurity and nutrition education by partnering with Rutgers University and Shoprite Supermarkets to create curricula to educate children and adults on healthy eating, working with local farmers and non-profit organizations to improve food distribution channels, and collaborating with government partners to streamline access to food support programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Woven throughout each of its SICI efforts and across the System, RWJBarnabas Health prioritizes its anchor mission through local hiring and local procurement, as the System understands that particularly now, as the country seeks to re-open, investing in local people and local vendors stimulates local economies and promotes growth.

The multi-tiered strategies Mr. Ostrowsky and Ms. Davis outline not only create social change, but also help strengthen trust between companies and their local communities. For example, when COVID-19 struck New Jersey, trust between RWJBarnabas Health and their local communities was crucial to addressing the disease. On the policy side, RWJBarnabas Health assisted lawmakers in Trenton in creating the Coronavirus Disease Pandemic Task Force on Racial and Health Disparities. Locally, the SICI practice helped launch a multilingual infographics campaign designed to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate COVID-19 information to members of the RWJBarnabas Health community, a critical component to engage individuals, strengthen relationships, and build trust.

With Changing Missions, Changing Lives, Mr. Ostrowsky and Ms. Davis hope to galvanize health care organizations and local anchor institutions across the country to become change agents in their communities. The pandemic, civil unrest, and constant reminders of inequity make this the opportune time for change agents to chart a course and create impact. RWJBarnabas Health is actively working to address the needs in its community. Learn more here.

About RWJBarnabas Health

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 an accountable care organization. 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 aligns 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