Princeton, N.J.—This morning the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) previewed its newest national initiative at a Forum of New Jersey leaders held at its headquarters in Princeton. The Forum convened leaders from a variety of sectors to address how everyone in New Jersey, and across the country, can strive together to build a Culture of Health to enable all to lead healthy lives now and for generations to come.
Occurring the week before the formal national launch of the Culture of Health vision at the Aspen Ideas Festival, the Forum was moderated by Dan Gorenstein, senior reporter for National Public Radio’s Marketplace. Gorenstein is currently spending a year following the city of Camden, N.J. to see how the Affordable Care Act impacts one community.
Building a Culture of Health requires collaboration across all sectors of society. Today’s Forum was a first step toward helping people in New Jersey work toward a new society where promoting health is as important as preventing illness, and making healthy choices is easy because keeping everyone healthy guides public and private decision making. In the spirit of collaboration, the panelists reflected a wide range of roles throughout the community.
James S. Marks, MD, MPH, senior vice president and director, Program Portfolios at RWJF kicked off the Forum’s two panels. “A Culture of Health affects every aspect of society,” explained Marks. “It means grandparents can stay in their own homes longer and play with their grandkids longer. It means our military can perform at its highest level. It means businesses can rely on the vitality of their workers to stay competitive. It gives local communities the best chance to thrive in every aspect.”
The Forum’s first panel focused on the topic: “How Do We Motivate and Support Individuals to Live Healthy Lives?”
Peter J. Gillies, PhD, executive director of the New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition & Health (IFNH) at Rutgers University, reminded the audience of the importance of spreading the message in constructive ways, citing the new Center for Childhood Nutrition and Education Research at IFNH with preschool-style classrooms. “You can’t just tell people what a healthy lifestyle is. You need to model it, and give them a chance to observe it in action.”
“The Department of Agriculture has placed an emphasis on providing access to nutritious Jersey Fresh fruits and vegetables to school children as well as families in need,” said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher. “Among our many programs that connect New Jersey residents with farm-fresh produce are the Farm to School program, which encourages farmers to sell their produce to schools; the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which seeks to serve local produce to school children when in season; and the State Food Purchase Program, which provides nutritious foods, including Jersey Fresh produce, to the network of food pantries, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters in the state.”
The second panel expanded from the individual to the institutions that support communities, asking, “How Do We Create the Infrastructure to Promote a Culture of Health?”
John R. Lumpkin, MD, MPH, senior vice president and director, Targeted Teams at RWJF expanded on the Foundation’s vision: “We need to change our expectations as a nation, and recalibrate our behavior as individuals. Here at RWJF, we plan to spotlight best practices and evidence-based solutions. We will partner with communities, policymakers, businesses, and others willing to find ways to build a Culture of Health for everyone in America.”
According to panelist Heather Howard, former New Jersey Commissioner of Health and Senior Services and director, State Health Reform Assistance Network, “States have really important levers to promote a Culture of Health, but we have to work across silos and include areas like education, child welfare, community affairs, transportation, etc. We also have to take a long view in terms of return on investment, even though that can be hard for state budgets. And we need to work on incorporating more health impact analyses into our policy assessments.”
"The Department of Health recognizes that the environments where we live, learn, work and play influence our overall health," said Department of Health Commissioner Mary O'Dowd, MPH. "The Department collaborates with healthcare partners, schools and businesses to support policies to reduce obesity, improve birth outcomes and empower individuals to make healthier choices and change their environments."
“We bring together a lot of separate public health efforts that are happening throughout the community, and get them to work together on a local level,” said Diane Litterer, MPA, CPS, CEO of the New Jersey Prevention Network-Coalition for a Healthy New Jersey. “We want to encourage more synergistic opportunities to make changes, rather than working in isolation. In the past, a lot has been done for changing individual behaviors one at a time, but now we are looking at environmental strategies to change whole systems and better serve the community.”
Ruth E. Perry, MD, executive director of the Trenton Health Team discussed specific efforts to implement the Trenton Community Health Improvement Plan and the Trenton250 Master Plan. “We want to breathe health into everything we plan and do, for ourselves and for our community," she emphasized. “Our three-year plan brings together a wide variety of municipal and community partners—including residents—to address daunting health priorities that are too big for one organization to tackle alone, such as safety and crime, health literacy and disparities, chronic disease, substance abuse, obesity, and challenges to behavioral health and healthy lifestyles.”
Annette Catino, president and CEO of QualCare explained: "We are witnessing a true revolution in the healthcare model. Individuals are now actively focused on taking steps to live longer and better. Hospitals are being paid to keep patients out of the hospitals. Doctors are banding together and are benefitting from newly formed groups. And insurers are taking steps to make the costs of healthcare more transparent."
Additional panelists included John Tiberi, vice president, Employee Benefits, Health & Safety, PSEG Corporation; and Lee McDonald, K-12 director of guidance, West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District.
Participants were encouraged to continue the conversation online using the hashtag #CultureofHealth.