Breaking Down Barriers to Health Equity Through Community Engagement

You can find the recording of the event here.

To help guide us in our planning, please send any feedback on the program and our efforts moving forward, to


New Jersey, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, is experiencing unprecedented levels of social and racial unrest and a severe financial recession, creating a new level of threat to health and well-being across the state. Systemic disparities are nothing new to the state. Barriers to access in the areas of healthcare, support services, education, food and nutrition, financial security, housing, and transportation have all contributed to a divided and inequitable New Jersey.

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, has a long history of serving communities across the state by providing resources and expertise in the areas of education, training, research, and access to services across all of its campuses. Since 2013, Rutgers has also been a significant provider of direct health care services.

As one of the oldest land-grant institutions in the country, receiving its designation in 1864, Rutgers is well positioned to serve as the state’s anchor university, playing an important role in supporting vibrant, healthy, and inclusive communities. As noted in the book, Land Grant Institutions for the Future, “each university must generate a sense of reassurance that the immediate interests of different communities are being served in tandem with those activities being recognized as vital to the future well-being of those communities.” Never has there been a greater opportunity and need for this anchor institution to engage and lead the state to a better place.

In collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), Rutgers has embarked in an effort to build strategies that will best leverage its resources, knowledge, and community partnerships to help ensure that everyone in New Jersey can thrive in a healthy, just, and equitable environment.

On October 14, 2020, Rutgers hosted a half-day convening that builds upon a series of conversations with faculty, staff, university leadership, and community members, as well as a broadly distributed online survey. Interviews focused on identifying key strengths and opportunities for enhancing Rutgers’ role as the state’s anchor institution.

The core question for the convening is: How can Rutgers leverage its robust knowledge and resources to promote a culture of health through effective, high-impact community engagement and partnership?  We appreciate your being part of envisioning what the future can be through your collective ideas and inspiration.


October 14, 2020


8:30 am
Introduction: Ann Gould, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs
Prabhas Moghe, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
8:45 am Call to Action: Building a Culture of Health in the State of New Jersey 
Introduction: Jill Bond, Associate Vice President, Foundation Relations, Rutgers University Foundation
Imagining an Equitable Future Across the State
Maisha Simmons, Director of NJ Grantmaking, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 
Introduction: Barbara Gladson, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Rutgers School of Health Professions
The Time is Now to Address Social Determinants of Health Through Coordinated Collaborative Action and Community Partnerships
Denise Rodgers, Vice Chancellor for Interprofessional Programs, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences 
9:15 am Rutgers Culture of Health 360: Findings from Interviews and Surveys Inside and Out
Shelley Hearne, ThinkWell Strategies, LLC
9:30 am
Driving Change with Communities on Policy, Systems, and the Social Determinants of Health
Moderator: Denise Rodgers, Vice Chancellor for Interprofessional Programs, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences
Sarah Allred, Faculty Director, Senator Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs, Rutgers University-Camden 
Kevin Lyons, Associate Professor of Professional Practice, Rutgers Business School-Newark and New Brunswick
Jeanne Herb, Executive Director, Environmental Analysis and Communications Group, Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy
10:30 am Break 
10:40 am
Social Justice, Politics, and the Health of Populations   
Perry N. Halkitis, Dean; Professor of Biostatistics and Urban-Global Public Health; Director, Center for Health, Identity, Behavior & Prevention Studies (CHIBPS), Rutgers School of Public Health       
  10:50 am
Anchoring Community Engagement for Social Justice and a Culture of Health    
Moderator:  Shelley Hearne, ThinkWell Strategies, LLC
Ethos of the Engaged Institution and a Culture of Health       
Roger Rennekamp, Extension Health Director, Cooperative Extension System/Extension Committee on Organization and Policy
Funding Model to Encourage University-wide Collaborations with Local Communities (from non-profit to local government agencies) to Improve Health and Well-being
Vanya Jones, Associate Director, Urban Health Institute, Johns Hopkins University
Reimagining the Rutgers Experience and Undergraduate Education
Sunita Kramer, Assistant Vice Provost, Undergraduate Research and Experiential Education, Rutgers-New Brunswick
11:40 am
Breaking Down Barriers to Health Equity Through Community Engagement: Building a Blueprint for Action
Moderator:  Shelley Hearne, ThinkWell Strategies, LLC
12:00 pm Adjourn