RWJF Hosts Culture of Health Forum in Camden, N.J.

    • May 7, 2015

Camden, N.J.—At a forum held at The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center this morning, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) brought together individuals and organizations in Camden to share ideas on building a Culture of Health. The Foundation first announced this vision during a statewide forum in Princeton last June. The Camden event follows another held in Jersey City last November.

“Achieving a Culture of Health will require all of us to think differently about health,” explained RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA. “Of course the health and health care fields play important roles in building a Culture of Health. But it’s just as important to understand the key roles that sectors like transportation and urban planning play, along with community and economic development, education, business, housing and social services.” 

Mayor Dana Redd spoke about her experiences as an elected official. “Part of my job is to help break down silos, and make sure that everyone gets a spot around the table, collaborating with the city and with each other to help make healthy choices available.”

Jeffrey C. Brenner, MD, executive director of the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, described the work he and his fellow health care providers do to prevent repeat visits to the emergency room. “We are wasting a whole lot of money on disorganized care for the most complex and sickest patients. Ultimately sustaining a Culture of Health is going to require thinking differently about how we spend our money. We hope to cause an ‘outbreak of health and well-being’ through better care coordination and engagement models for the sickest patients. Then we can take that money and free it up to work upstream.”

“To promote systemic change, we believe in a servant leader model,” said Joseph Conway, EdD, MA, founder, Camden's Charter School Network. “We serve others and lead by example. It is our hope that our service curriculum and community activities in collaboration and cooperation with other like-minded groups in the Camden community can motivate our students and the Camden community as a whole to focus on the health of themselves, their families, and their community.”

Kim F. Fortunato, JD, director of Healthy Communities for Campbell Soup Company, discussed the company’s commitment to improving the health of young people in its hometown community. “Campbell has been headquartered in Camden since 1869 and has a long history of giving back to its community. The Campbell Healthy Communities program has been designed based on a collective impact approach. We work with a diverse, multi-sector group aligned around a common agenda, to measurably improve the health of young people by reducing childhood obesity and hunger."

Anthony J.  Perno, III, Esq., CEO of Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, talked about the Connect the Lots and Camden Night Gardens programs. “We’re re-purposing the city’s underutilized public spaces into new playgrounds and renovated ball fields. We are also transforming the physical landscape along key corridors, using arts and culture.”

The Forum was moderated by Tamala Edwards, anchor for 6ABC Action News, and also included Donald F. Schwarz, MD, MPH, MBA, a director at RWJF. Participants joined the conversation online using the hashtag #CultureofHealth.

In addition to the panel of speakers, the forum included presentations from various community stakeholders, detailing their work building a Culture of Health through areas like health care delivery, regional planning, public health, social services, housing, transportation, and business development. Those presentations included:

  • Elsa Candelario, executive director, Hispanic Family Center of Southern NJ, Inc.
  • Patricia DeShields, CEO, Project Hope
  • Valeria Galarza, co-director, New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids – Camden
  • Pilar Hogan-Closkey, executive director, St. Joseph’s Carpenter Society
  • Raymond Lamboy, executive director, Latin American Economic Development Association, Inc.
  • Matt Norris, South Jersey coordinator, Tri State Transportation Campaign
  • Ana Ramos, New Jersey Food Access Coordinator, The Food Trust
  • Paymon Rouhanifard, superintendent, Camden City School District.
  • Karen Talarico, executive director, Cathedral Kitchen

The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center is a 120,000-square-foot state-of-the-art center on a 24-acre campus, providing recreational, health, educational, cultural, family and spiritual programming to the Camden community. The Salvation Army chose Camden as one of 26 locations to receive funds to build a Kroc Center in 2006 after receiving a bequest of $1.6 billion from the estate of Mrs. Joan Kroc.

“We are blessed to host the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Culture of Health forum,” said Major Paul Cain, administrator and area coordinator for The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center. “The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Kroc Center share many common goals, including the promotion of health and wellness in the community. In fact, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation was a major investor in the campaign to build the Kroc Center. We are pleased to see their work continues in Camden and throughout the region.”

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 of all. The Foundation is striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all 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