New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids Sponsored Building Healthy, Equitable Communities Conference on December 3

    • December 3, 2014
A boy plays on swings in North Carolina.

Trenton, N.J.—The New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids (NJPHK), a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, hosted a Building Healthy, Equitable Communities Conference on December 3, at the Pines Manor in Edison, N.J.

The conference focused on providing participants with tools and best practices to build healthier communities by helping to incorporate health equity into current policies and practices, thereby helping to lessen chronic diseases such as obesity and address environmental factors contributing to health disparities.

“Nearly one-third of children in this country are overweight or obese, leading to a plethora of health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol—issues that have been generally associated with adults in the past,” stated Darrin Anderson, deputy director of NJPHK. “By bringing together experts and community advocates to share practical solutions and best practices, we can make an even greater impact on the health of New Jersey families.”

Since its inception in 2009, NJPHK and its community partners have made great strides in implementing policy and environment changes aimed at preventing childhood obesity, including: assisting with the development of wellness policies and school wellness policies, renovating playgrounds, securing commitments from local corner stores to provide healthier choices, creating bike lanes, and co-sponsoring fun and fitness events.

“With continued collaboration among our partners, we can make a huge difference in reducing childhood obesity rates and ensuring that all of our children have the opportunity to achieve their full health potential,” stated Anderson.

More than 300 community leaders, dietitians, teachers, school nurses and social workers attended the one-day conference, which was co-sponsored by the NJ YMCA State Alliance; Shaping NJ, New Jersey Department of Health; Family and Community Health Sciences, Rutgers Cooperative Extension; and the New Jersey Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics.

Featured conference speakers included Dwayne C. Proctor, PhD, director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Health Disparities Portfolio, and William H. Dietz, MD, PhD, director, Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness, Milken Institute of Public Health, George Washington University. A panel discussion moderated by Mike Schneider, anchor and managing editor of New Jersey public television’s NJTV news program, examined the causes of health inequities and strategies communities can use to address the issue.

Panel participants included: Diana MTK Autin, executive co-director, Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN); Robert C. Like, MD, MS, professor and director, Center for Healthy Families and Cultural Diversity, Family Medicine and Community Health, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; Mariam Merced, MA, director of the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Community Health Promotion Program; Daniel F. Oscar, president and CEO Center for Supportive Schools; Laurie Shanderson, PhD, MPA, assistant dean, School of Health Sciences, Richard Stockton College.

Afternoon workshops focused on community-based strategies to build a Culture of Health, clinical efforts, the healthy corner store Initiatives, health equity policy and practices and urban planning.

NJPHK also presented Healthy Kids Champion awards to six community leaders for their commitment and contributions in the following NJPHK-targeted communities. 

  • Camden—Meishka L. Mitchell, Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, Vice President of Neighborhood Initiatives
  • New Brunswick—Michael G. Blackwell, Superintendent of Recreation in New Brunswick and Executive Director of “The First Tee of Raritan Valley”
  • Newark—Marguerite Leuze, Special Assistant for Health and Nursing, for the Office of Health Services of the Newark Public Schools
  • Trenton—Francis Blanco, the first Latina appointed to the position of chief of staff in the Trenton Mayor’s office
  • Vineland—Stanley Burke, a longtime, dedicated community volunteer
  • State Program Office—Barbara George Johnson, executive director of the John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy at Thomas Edison State College


About New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids

New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids (NJPHK) is a statewide program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation with technical assistance and direction provided by the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance. The goal of the program is to convene, connect and empower community partnerships across the state in order to design and implement childhood obesity prevention strategies that support access to affordable healthy foods and increase opportunities for safe physical activity in the cities of Camden, Newark, New Brunswick, Trenton, and Vineland. For more information, visit Follow NJPHK on Twitter or on Facebook.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. 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: Ann Allen

Hooper Williams Communications (908) 812-4385