Building a Culture of Health Conference


Beth J. Milton
Believe in a Healthy Newark Initiative



On September 28, 2017 the “Believe in a Healthy Newark Initiative” hosted its first annual “Building a Culture of Health in Newark” conference at NJIT in Newark, NJ. Over 375 people attended the conference. Research increasingly shows that social determinants—e.g., where you live, how much education you have, what kind of job you have, and the safety of the community in which you live—all play important roles in your health. As such, the conference highlighted work being done by community-based partnerships to address a select group of social determinants of health–healthy homes, food & fitness, and adverse childhood experiences. The conference featured local initiatives, discussed best practices, and encouraged partnerships to advance a culture of health. Community forums in the South and West wards are being planned for the first quarter of 2018, to continue and advance the discussions.

“Believe in a Healthy Newark” is a non-profit initiative funded, in part, by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s New Jersey Health Initiatives program. This program aims to utilize a collective impact approach to identify common measures, develop common interventions, and use assessments of their success, to modify and strengthen their initiatives as they seek to improve health outcomes and eliminate health disparities.

The conference plenary speaker was Bob Atkins, PhD, RN, FAAN, director of the New Jersey Health Initiatives and an Associate Professor at Rutgers University with a joint appointment in Nursing and Childhood Studies. Dr. Atkins talked about moving from a Culture of Healthcare to a Culture of Health by investing more health resources in where we work, play, live, learn and pray. We must get all stakeholders in the community at the table. The focus is on population health and increasing opportunities for healthier living.

Dr. Denise Rodgers, Vice Chancellor, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences set the tone of the conference, welcoming the enthusiastic attendees and giving an overview of the “Believe in a Healthy Newark Initiative,” and introducing a panel of Impact Team leaders, moderated by Jennifer Velez, Senior Vice President for Community and Behavioral Health at RWJBarnabas Health.

After a networking lunch, the crowd participated in an afternoon pick-me-up by Sharon Antoine-Dixon, a Certified Zumba Instructor. This set the tone for a call-to-action for the nine breakout sessions that followed.

The group was treated to a networking reception following the conference, and it was great to see the enthusiastic attendees stay after a full day of collaborative learning and sharing.

Some of the many volunteers, at the beginning:

Some of the steering committee, at the closing/reception:


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