RWJBarnabas gets $2M grant to launch SDOH screenings for patients

RWJBarnabas Health announced on Monday it has been given a $2 million grant from the Walmart Foundation to pilot a universal social determinants of health (SDOH) screening for patients.

At select locations, the health system said the new program will complement its already required clinical assessment that patients undergo, including weight, temperature and blood pressure.

SDOH, which include things such as proper nutrition, healthy housing, smoking and other substance use, or violence in the home, majorly impact health outcomes. The COVID-19 outbreak also increased SDOH for many and has brought to light already-existing health disparities and inequities of New Jersey’s most vulnerable populations.

“The Walmart Foundation grant will enhance our efforts to identify existing social determinants, address health inequities and support those who have suffered economically, physically, emotionally and mentally,” Barry H. Ostrowsky, CEO and president of RWJBarnabas Health, said. “These funds afford us the opportunity to leverage health care as an access point to serve patients holistically by identifying critical barriers to care such as access to nutritious food for a senior with diabetes, or access to an asthma education program for a parent of a child newly diagnosed with asthma.”

The funding will be used to develop and launch a comprehensive SDOH screening tool for patients, including accessibility to nutritious food; food security; access to safe and stable housing; educational opportunities; employment status; personal safety; accessibility to transportation; and other social and environmental factors.

“Addressing food-related health disparities and putting nutritious food into the hands of people that need it most has never been more important,” Julie Gehrki, vice president of philanthropy for, said. “With this investment, we aim to help drive innovation through the work of RWJBarnabas Health to systematically embed food security into health care to deliver better outcomes for the people of New Jersey and beyond.”

Once the pilot has been successfully completed, RWJBarnabas is planning to roll out SDOH screening to its entire system.