Policy & Systems Change

Strong public policies have the ability to create health equity, sustain evidence-based programs, and build stronger communities. The system’s Social Impact and Community Investment practice is distinct nationally because of its comprehensive integration of policy. RWJBH believes that to have long-term, sustainable impact on community health and well-being, it is necessary to make long-term changes to systems and structures. For these reasons, the RWJBH policy development and government affairs department has expanded its focus. In order to effectuate long-term, sustainable change in systems and structures that have, for decades, contributed to inequitable health outcomes, the practice pursues thought leadership in innovative policy and emphasizes the need for equity for all in each aspect of its work.

The major tenets of RWJBH’s social impact work is an emphasis on external systems and structures that require municipal, state, and federal statutory and regulatory advocacy in order to pursue the goals of improving community health through non-traditional health care avenues. In order to effectively pursue social impact policy initiatives, the policy development and government affairs team builds and maintains stakeholder relationships outside of those typically maintained in the health care arena.

Ultimately, as policy leads this practice, the policy development and government affairs department influences the system’s social impact mission by pursuing supportive federal, state and local policies to improve health outcomes, eliminate disparities and achieve equity in New Jersey and nationwide. The SICI practice relies on evidence-based, data-driven research and analysis to inform its initiatives; so too does its policy initiatives.

The size and scope of the RWJBarnabas Health system is not only geographically widespread, it is also politically diverse and issue expansive. The practice manages a coverage area of a total of 12 legislative districts and the 107 municipalities within them and seven congressional districts and the 265 municipalities within them. This size and scope provides the policy development and government affairs department with an opportunity to build relationships with government and elected officials that cover approximately 5 million of the State’s population.


Educate key internal and external stakeholders about the interplay of health outcomes and the social determinants, as evidenced by increased understanding of social impact.

Implementation of policy solutions to improve health outcomes, eliminate disparity and achieve equity requires an understanding of how social determinants of health play a larger role in individual and communities’ health outcomes than clinical care. This education campaign extends to both RWJBH internal stakeholders and external audiences, including policymakers, government officials, community-based stakeholders and the media.

  1. Expand the partnership with Think Tank, Inc., to institute a COPE-certified training program in the RWJBH system, in order to expand the SICI practice’s ability to equip employees, affiliates, providers and eventually, external decision makers, to deepen their understanding of the holistic experience of poverty and the inadequate manner that current structures and systems impact the vulnerable by certifying 30 RWJBH SICI leaders to facilitate COPE simulations.
  2. Support United Way ALICE convenings to highlight true cost of living in New Jersey and nationwide, dispel myths surrounding the working poor, and encourage government officials and business leaders and RWJBH to pursue policies to support ALICE initiatives.

Serve as a key stakeholder in state and national coalition building efforts aligned with SICI practice priorities, as evidenced by increased partnerships with key organizations.

Entrance into the social impact and community investment arena brings with it new national advocacy network involvement. Among these are the Healthcare Anchor Network, convened by the Democracy Collaborative; The Root Cause Coalition; and the United Way’s National ALICE Policy Forum, RWJBH’s SICI has a seat on the national advisory councils of each. Additionally, this requires expanded coalition building at the state level, including the Health Care Quality Institute of New Jersey; the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey; and Advocates for Children of New Jersey, among others. Finally, this practice utilizes its existing membership in trade associations at the state and federal level—including America’s Essential Hospitals, the American Hospital Association, the New Jersey Hospital Association, the Hospital Alliance of New Jersey, the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, among others— to influence policy initiatives and positions.

  1. Expand partnerships with national and state stakeholder coalitions.
  2. Pursue roles on various state and federal non-profit boards that align with the goals and objectives of the SICI.

Advocate for supportive policies, at the federal, state, and local level, that enable the SICI practice to meet its mission and create long-term systemic and sustainable change, as evidenced by adoption of supported policies.

At its core, this practice serves as an advocate for supportive policies, at the federal, state and local level, that enables the practice to move its short-term initiatives to create long-term systematic and sustainable change.

  1. Expand partnership with nationally recognized policy partner, Change Lab Solutions, to support existing work with neighborhoods, cities, and the State to transform communities with laws and policies aligned with those targeted facilities’ social impact initiatives.
  2. Develop and pursue policy initiatives based on the SICI practice’s goals and objectives, described throughout the strategic plan.