Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Hosts Culture of Health Forum in Jersey City

    • November 6, 2014
Panel discussion at NJ Culture of Health Forum, November 6, 2014.

Steve Adubato, PhD, anchor, Thirteen/WNET and NJTV; James S. Marks, MD, MPH, senior vice president and director, Program Portfolios, RWJF; Steven Fulop mayor, Jersey City; Michellene Davis, Esq., executive vice president, corporate affairs, Barnabas Health; Rob Caulfield, partner, Fields Development Group; Jim Nelson, executive director, The Sharing Place at St. Paul Lutheran Church; and Jessica Schaeffer, manager, Healthy Schools Program, Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

Princeton, N.J.—The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) convened a forum in Jersey City on November 6, 2014, to discuss how different sectors can work together to build a Culture of Health in their community. The event took place this morning at New Jersey City University. 

The panelists were specifically chosen to showcase the way various community members can collaborate at the local level to build a Culture of Health. According to James Marks, MD, MPH, senior vice president and director, Program Portfolios for RWJF:

“We know that in order to help build a Culture of Health, in Jersey City or anywhere, it will take collaboration; all of us working together. Everyone has a role to play–parents, co-workers, neighbors, schools, civic leaders, policymakers, and businesses. Even less obvious partners like community development, transportation, housing, and urban planning. Achieving a Culture of Health will require us to think differently and share innovative practices that make a real difference.”

The Forum was moderated by Steve Adubato, PhD, Emmy Award-winning anchor for Thirteen/WNET (PBS) and NJTV (PBS).

The Foundation first announced its new vision at a statewide forum in Princeton in June and recognizes that a Culture of Health will look different in each community, and that there is no single way to get there. The Jersey City forum is the first in a series of regional forums across the state aimed at highlighting each community’s particular needs, what is already being done, and what is still required to make it healthier.

“We want to know what’s working, what people are already doing and thinking about doing, and then help to share all of those great ideas,” said Marks.

Jersey City Mayor Steven M. Fulop spoke about how his office is working to bring a healthier culture to Jersey City. "We consider healthy living to be a vital part of a growing Jersey City population," said Mayor Fulop. "From earned sick leave and affordable health coverage to healthy food options and ample recreation opportunities, Jersey City is striving to achieve meaningful positive health outcomes for our residents."

Michellene Davis, Esq., executive vice president of corporate affairs for Barnabas Health, which owns and operates the Jersey City Medical Center (JCMC), explained, “As New Jersey’s largest nonprofit healthcare delivery system, Barnabas Health has long embraced the vision and obligation of keeping our communities healthy and averting illness. We are proud to have collaborated with community partners to pioneer highly successful, award-winning wellness programs, especially in schools and houses of worship in underserved communities. In order to consolidate our initiatives, we have recently named a vice president of Healthy Living and Community Wellness and Engagement who will champion our wellness programs throughout Barnabas Health and the communities we serve, and enhance the programs already offered at Jersey City Medical Center. We applaud the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for its forum series aimed at helping to build a Culture of Health.”

“At The Sharing Place, one of the ways we work to help build a Culture of Health is by paying attention to the nutritional content in the food we hand out,” explained Jim L. Nelson, executive director, The Sharing Place, a food pantry based at the St. Paul Lutheran Church. “We also share vegetables from the P.E.A.C.E. Garden, and we hope to inspire Sharing Place members to participate in gardening at home or other community spaces. We’re working to raise the funds to enable distribution of gardening starter kits by next spring.”

“Our goal is to create a positive lifestyle inside and around our developments in the hope of forming a sense of community among the building residents,” said Robert Caulfield, a partner of the Fields Development Group. “We also try to incorporate and promote a healthy lifestyle through amenities such as fitness areas, yoga studios, outdoor common space, and enforcing a 100% non-smoking building policy.”

“Everyone in the community has the power to help reverse the nation’s childhood obesity epidemic,” said Jessica Schaeffer, program manager in New Jersey for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program. “I’ve been fortunate to work directly with schools in New Jersey that are true leaders in this fight. They prioritize children’s health by promoting healthy eating and physical activity policies and practices.”

Marks concluded that RWJF plans to follow up this forum by compiling and sharing the ideas that came out of it, as well as hosting additional forums in other locations across the state. Said Marks, “As the largest foundation in New Jersey, we aim to serve as both a catalyst and an ally, working with communities, policymakers, businesses, and others willing to find ways to build a Culture of Health for everyone in America.”

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the largest private foundation in New Jersey and the nation’s largest philanthropy working to improve the health and health care of all Americans. The Foundation is striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all Americans to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. RWJF has invested more than $1.5 billion in New Jersey since 1972. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at



Media Contacts

Melissa Blair

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (609) 627-5937

Additional Media Contact: Christine Clayton

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (609) 627-5759

A forum participant asks a question at the NJ Culture of Health Forum, November 6, 2014.