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Creating a Shared Vision to Help Restore Atlantic City

Feb 20, 2018, 10:00 AM, Posted by Bob Atkins, Diane Hagerman

Atlantic City demonstrates how cross-sector coalitions built on trust are key to healthier communities. A new funding opportunity is seeking similar New Jersey coalitions that are tackling local priorities, especially in low-income communities.

Atlantic City, New Jersey

Atlantic City, New Jersey, is a colorful place with a storied past. Today, its casinos, beaches and boardwalk make it a natural tourist destination, with a transportation infrastructure that puts it within easy reach of millions of people. The many languages spoken in the city are a testament to its vibrant diversity.  

Despite its long-standing status as a tourist destination, the city has not always enjoyed a stellar reputation. Crime rates exceed national averages (although they’ve fallen over the past few years), and unemployment is nearly double the national rate. Gambling hasn’t brought much luck to a place that sits in a county ranked 17th in health outcomes among New Jersey’s 21 counties, according to 2017 County Health Rankings data.

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Can a Single Question Help Families Confront Poverty?

Apr 13, 2016, 10:30 AM, Posted by David Krol

A new recommendation for pediatricians aims to help the one in five children in the United States who live in poverty.

Father holds young child at doctor's office.

During most of the week, I spend my time here at RWJF working on programs to develop leaders in health and health care and to address childhood obesity. But on Friday afternoons, I am at Eric B. Chandler Health Center in New Brunswick, N.J., seeing children and families. Eric B. Chandler is a federally qualified health center, and we serve a lot of poor, immigrant families. The children I see are more likely to have asthma or tooth decay than are children who live not too far away. They’re also more likely to be overweight, and to face adverse childhood experiences like family trauma or violence.

In some sense, this isn’t surprising. Poverty is one of the biggest health risks that children face today. One in five young people in the United States lives in poverty, and it’s present in urban, suburban, and rural communities across the country. My colleagues James Marks and Kristin Schubert recently described what lasting impact poverty can have on children.

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Revitalizing Newark in a Healthy Way

Feb 24, 2016, 10:00 AM, Posted by Catherine Arnst

An ambitious collaborative effort is revitalizing a long-struggling city in ways that promote not only economic growth, but health and wellness. 

Rutgers Newark campus Arthur Paxton/Wikimedia Commons

“Jobs in Newark, New Jersey are as rare as dinosaurs,” says Barbara LaCue. She should know—the 51-year-old Newark resident was unemployed for more than five years after being laid off in 2008 from a steady factory job. She ended up living in a homeless shelter with her two sons.

Then, last October that dinosaur showed up. It took the form of a 67,000 square foot ShopRite, the first full service supermarket to serve the 25,000 people in the city’s struggling University Heights neighborhood.

ShopRite took over a site that had been vacant since the infamous Newark Riots in 1967. It is in a neighborhood where the poverty rate ranges between 25 and 40 percent, and half the households do not have access to a car. ShopRite is the anchor tenant of Springfield Avenue Market, a planned $91 million dollar retail and housing development funded in part by The Reinvestment Fund, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

But to Barbara, what matters most are the 350 full and part-time jobs the store created, most of them filled by people from the community. She is a chef at the deli counter, and she sees the job as more than just a living—it is a creative outlet. Barbara makes a mac n’ cheese to die for, and there are few people who can claim to love their job as much as she does hers. “This store is the best. I love this store.”

Her colleague Donald Douglas, also a lifelong Newark resident, works in the produce section. No one in Newark wanted to hire people from the neighborhood before Shoprite came along, says Donald. “Now, this is my supermarket. We all greet people with a smile here, because we are part of the community.”

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Mental Health Challenges of Hurricane Sandy’s Aftermath

Oct 29, 2014, 8:31 AM, Posted by Vicki Philips

View of damage from Hurricane Sandy in N.J. Driftwood Cabana Club, Sea Bright, N.J.

On her 90th birthday, instead of celebrating, Dottie (whose last name is withheld for privacy) lost her home in Superstorm Sandy. Two years later, she is still displaced, living in temporary rentals.

Dottie’s nephew is trying to change that. He’s been rebuilding Dottie's home. Like so many New Jersey residents, he says he’s going to keep at it until reconstruction is complete. Meanwhile, he’s getting some much needed support from groups like BrigStrong, the County Long Term Recovery Group, and the Mental Health Association in New Jersey (MHANJ).

It’s been two long years since Hurricane Sandy slammed into New Jersey on October 29, 2012. As a mental health worker, I still see the aftereffects firsthand.

For the past two years MHANJ, along with other local groups, has been on the front lines of the battle to maintain the mental health of Jersey Shore residents. Thanks to a major RWJF grant, MHANJ has been able to leave the county in a better position to deal with the next disaster:

  • We’ve given mental health first aid training to city employees who, in their daily work, encounter community members with mental health issues.
  • Through our Certified Recovery Support Practitioner program, we’ve improved our ability to reach out to the most vulnerable. Many community members certified through the program have faced mental health challenges themselves, which only increases their credibility.
  • We counseled populations with mental health issues on how to safely evacuate or shelter in place, thus ensuring that first responders will be safer in future emergencies.

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An RWJF New Jersey Nursing Scholar on Why She Wants to Be a Nurse Leader

May 13, 2014, 9:00 AM, Posted by Jenee Skinner-Hamler

National Nurses Week just ended, but several nurses are continuing the conversation, blogging about the reasons they aspire to leadership. Jenee Skinner-Hamler, DNP, RN, FNP, completed her master of science degree at the Rutgers School of Nursing as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation New Jersey Nursing Initiative (NJNI) New Jersey Nursing Scholar, and received additional support from NJNI to pursue her doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree at Wilkes University.


Becoming a nurse leader permits me to give voice to help bridge theory and practice by reflecting on educational and practical learning. Nurse leaders help to shape the next generation of nurses. With that being said, why wouldn’t I desire to become a nurse leader? Having a voice helps not just myself, but others to overcome setbacks while constantly thinking of solutions in nursing.

Throughout my nursing career, I have had the opportunity to function as a team leader on a critical care unit. Functioning in such a capacity requires that I engage my co-workers, while at the same time balancing my own ambitions and competence. Nurse leaders broadcast their knowledge and skills, and then share their knowledge with their co-workers, to improve patient outcomes. To become a nurse leader, one must possess a passion for learning.

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Nurses on Hospital Boards – Why Is It So Important?

Sep 5, 2013, 3:19 PM

The Institute of Medicine report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, recommended that nurses be empowered and prepared to take leadership roles, becoming full partners in hospitals and other health care settings to redesign health care in the United States.

In this video, produced by the New Jersey Action Coalition, Dave Knowlton, president and CEO of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, and Robert Wise, president and CEO of the Hunterdon Healthcare System, talk about the importance of having nurses in leadership positions on hospital boards.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.

A New Nurse Aids Some of Those Who Lost So Much During Hurricane Sandy

Jul 3, 2013, 9:00 AM, Posted by Olivia Jackson

Olivia Jackson is an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) program. She graduated summa cum laude from Fairleigh Dickinson University's Accelerated Bachelor's Degree in Nursing program this past May. She has a BA in Biological Sciences from Rutgers University. She is currently pursuing a career in medical surgical nursing.


The Jersey Shore is open for business this summer, and I am proud to say that I played a small part if making that happen, and helping the community that was devastated by Hurricane Sandy last year.

In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the East Coast, especially in New Jersey and New York. For our November volunteer project, I and several other NCIN scholars at Fairleigh Dickinson University devoted a Saturday to helping the citizens of Rockaway Beach, New York, where the storm was particularly strong.

Through online research on, I located a bus going to the Rockaways that needed more volunteers to help assemble and distribute care packages to the people affected by Hurricane Sandy. As our bus pulled into the Rockaways, the first thing we saw is what used to be a parking lot for beachgoers. It looked like a scene from an apocalyptic movie. Mounds of debris, most of which used to be the homes of Rockaway residents, extended across the horizon. I felt a deep sense of sadness and could not even imagine how devastated these people must feel having lost everything.

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“Unprecedented Destruction”: Ocean County Public Health Continues to Respond to Hurricane Sandy

Mar 11, 2013, 2:42 PM

Hurricane Sandy devastated much of the East Coast last fall, with sea communities in New York and New Jersey such as Ocean County bearing a disproportionate share of the damage. In Ocean County alone, 40,000 buildings were damaged by the storm’s monstrous gusts and floodwaters and the county suffered nearly half the damage recorded throughout New Jersey, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

>>A new video produced by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation about the public health response to Hurricane Sandy features health department officials including Dan Regenye, coordinator of the Ocean County Public Health Department, and New Jersey Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd. Watch the video:


For more than a week after the storm ended, more than 250 employees of the public health department worked day and night to help the county’s 576,000 residents. The county provided medical needs sheltering for more than 1,000 residents, three times the number expected. And many shelters that housed displaced residents were also able to shelter their pets­–a critical need for many people who might not have evacuated otherwise.

This week at the annual Public Health Preparedness Summit hosted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Association of County and City Health Officials, the Ocean County Health Department will present a poster on response to and recovery from disaster. Follow NewPublicHealth coverage of the conference and other preparedness news.

In advance of the conference, NewPublicHealth spoke with Dan Regenye.

NewPublicHealth: How is your community doing?

Dan Regenye: I think it’s going to take a long time for total recovery to happen, and the reality is that it’s never going to be what it was. Some things will be better, some things will be worse. Our residents are dealing with their own personal issues and circumstances on a case-by-case basis. I think it’s the navigation part that’s so difficult for so many people between all the different agencies—local, state and federal—and private organizations. They need to look at FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) maps and have to interact with insurers, contractors and others. It’s challenging.

NPH: What is the health department’s role in the recovery?

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Hurricane Sandy Recovery: New Jersey’s Health Commissioner Helms Response Roundtable

Nov 21, 2012, 9:55 AM

file (From left to right) Nicole Lurie, HHS; N.J. Commissioner of Health Mary E. O'Dowd; John K. Lloyd, Meridian Health; and Robert L. Sweeney, D.O., Meridian Health

Just two weeks after Hurricane Sandy hit, the State of New Jersey held a Response Roundtable at the Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune Township, N.J., to begin a review of the health department’s response to the storm. The site was an appropriate one: in the first few days of the Sandy, the medical center’s emergency room treated close to 2,000 patients with storm-related medical and mental health emergencies. A key roundtable participant was Nicole Lurie, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. Leading the discussion was New Jersey’s Health Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd.

Critical responses by the health department have included:

  • A Department of Health hotline, opened within days of the storm, and staffed with public health experts who answer questions on mold cleanup, food safety, and drinking water concerns. The public can reach the hotline either through the state's 2-1-1 system or by calling 1-866-234-0964. 
  • The New Jersey Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services is coordinating statewide efforts to help individuals and communities manage the emotional impact of the storm, and offers assistance through a toll-free Disaster Mental Health Helpline: 1-877-294-HELP (4357); a TTY line is available for persons who are deaf and hearing impaired at 1-877-294-4356.
  • The New Jersey Medical Reserve Corps (NJMRC) program is comprised of health care professionals and community health volunteers from across the state. "In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the Department has received many inquiries from people looking to volunteer in New Jersey's response and recovery efforts," says O'Dowd. Every county is the state has at least one MRC unit, and all 25 NJMRC units have been active during the response and recovery efforts, according to O’Dowd. Volunteers have been serving at shelters across the state, have helped staff hotlines and have distributed food and water in local communities. New Jersey was the first state to have an MRC in every county. 
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) approved the New Jersey health department’s request to ensure access to prescription medications to uninsured residents affected by the storm through its Emergency Prescription Assistance Program.  The program provides access, at any enrolled pharmacy, to necessary prescription drugs and some medical equipment for individuals in a federally-identified disaster area who don’t have health insurance.
  • The Department has also assisted local and county health departments who were impacted by the storm. Many health department offices and facilities faced flooding, power outages, water shortages, wastewater concerns and communication difficulties. The state health department’s field staff has assisted with, among other issues, shelter and retail food inspections, in the weeks after the storm. 

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.

Improving Nurse Education Matters to Businesses, Too

Sep 17, 2012, 10:21 AM, Posted by Dana Egreczky

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Human Capital Blog is asking diverse experts: What is and isn’t working in health professions education today, and what changes are needed to prepare a high-functioning health and health care workforce that can meet the country’s current and emerging needs? Today’s post is by Dana Egreczky, BS, MBA, senior vice president of workforce development at the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, and president and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation.


As head of workforce development at the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, I’ve seen a vast shift in the education levels employers expect in their employees, and nurses are no exception. It makes good sense: Nurses have more responsibilities than ever, and are caring for an increasing, and increasingly complex, patient population. They need to understand vast amounts of medical knowledge and be able to make quick, sound decisions that affect the lives of their patients.


Certainly, all nurses play a valuable role in our health care system, but we need more nurses with baccalaureate degrees and higher to meet increasing demands and to provide higher quality, more complex care. Studies show a clear link between nurse education levels and patient outcomes.

We also need more nurses with advanced degrees to fill faculty vacancies. Our population is aging, and in increasing need of nursing services, but there aren’t enough nurse educators to train the next generation of nurses. And that does not bode well for our health—or our economy.

At the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation, we are doing our part to solve this problem. We have teamed up with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to create the New Jersey Nursing Initiative (NJNI), which is working to transform nursing education and address the nurse faculty shortage in our state.

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