RWJBarnabas Health part of group announcing $700M pledge toward community health

RWJBarnabas Health was one of 14 hospitals and health systems nationwide to announce Wednesday a commitment of over $700 million for place-based investing to create strong and healthy communities.

The institutions, which include national and regional health systems and some of the largest private-sector employers in their states and regions, feel health systems are uniquely positioned as leading employers and economic engines in their communities, according to a release.

In addition to providing quality health care, the institutions feel they can leverage their own resources to help address the economic, racial and environmental resource disparities that impact community health outcomes.

The goal is to create sustainable returns for the institutions while deploying that investment capital to address social determinants of health needs in their communities.

Place-based investing creates healthy and thriving communities by increasing available capital for positive social, economic or environmental impact. It supports local and diverse business development and empowers low-income people to create, manage and own enterprises. These investments will be leveraged several times over to have an even greater impact in communities nationwide.

RWJBarnabas Health CEO and President Barry Ostrowsky said it is the system’s mission to create healthier communities.

“As an anchor institution, we have a moral obligation to address the social and economic inequalities that plague our neighbors, particularly those who are most vulnerable,” he said. “We have incorporated intentional hiring practices, purchasing and place-based investment to spur growth and stimulate local economies.

“Collaborations with incredible organizations such as the Healthcare Anchor Network and its national partners enable us to collectively improve health outcomes, promote health equity and eliminate healthcare disparities for people in the communities we serve and beyond.”

RWJBarnabas Health is investing in stable and affordable housing, a greenhouse in Newark, a mobile greenhouse and cooking school, vending and procuring local businesses including minority-owned, women-owned and veteran-owned businesses, career ladders for frontline employees and violence prevention interventions.

The 13 other health systems pledging to invest over $700 million toward impact investing include: Advocate Aurora Health, Anchorum St. Vincent, Bon Secours Mercy Health, Boston Medical Center, CommonSpirit Health, Einstein Healthcare Network, Henry Ford Health System, Intermountain Healthcare, Kaiser Permanente, ProMedica, Rush University Medical Center, Trinity Health and UMass Memorial Health Care.

RWJBarnabas Health, along with the other 13 institutions, is a member of the Healthcare Anchor Network that supports health systems to accelerate learning and local implementation of economic inclusion strategies. The HAN hospitals and health systems together employ more than 1.5 million people, purchase over $50 billion annually and have over $100 billion in investment assets.

“In the last two-and-a-half years, the HAN members have moved forward to collaborate on strategies and to align their business operations to tackle the structural and economic drivers of poor health through place-based investing, as well as through local, inclusive hiring and procurement,” HAN Director Dave Zuckerman said. “Anchor mission work utilizes and leverages local community resources to address jobs, training, small business support and equitable community development. It’s individual and community wealth building.”

Ostrowsky said health systems know the need to address the fundamental root causes of poor health is immense and they wanted to take action now. They also want to deepen institutional leadership in the Healthcare Anchor Network, and the health care sector more broadly, by making bold, measurable commitments in this core Anchor Mission strategy area.

Despite record-low unemployment and an overall strong economy, the country is experiencing systematically deepening disparities in its economic, health and well-being outcomes. We live in a world where a ZIP code could mean a lifespan a decade shorter than someone in a neighboring, wealthier area. A recent New York University study showed that 56 of some of the biggest U.S. cities have very large life expectancy gaps, where on average people in one neighborhood can expect to live 20 to 30 years longer than their neighbors a few miles away.

New Jersey is the third-wealthiest state in the nation, yet nearly 3.4 million New Jersey residents cannot afford to meet their basic needs. Over 1.9 million people live in homes that are too expensive, overcrowded or lack adequate plumbing and 919,000 New Jerseyans go to bed hungry each night.