Addressing Trauma, Engaging Youth, and Working with Businesses to Build Healthier Communities

Communities become healthier when all community stakeholders—residents, non-profits, municipal governments, and so on— work together to invest in systems, policies, and environments that promote health and well-being. As the statewide grantmaking program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI) advances the Foundation’s priorities in its home state by working with community stakeholders to support investments in building healthier communities. There is growing interest among stakeholders to identify upstream investments linked to healthier communities and economic success.

Last November, NJHI funded a pilot project to explore how investments in human capital— Camden youth and corporate employees from Subaru of America—could potentially lead to improvements in business performance and the community’s health and well-being. Hopeworks N Camden, the grant recipient, is a community-based, non-profit in the city of Camden, offering vulnerable youth technology training and job opportunities. Hopeworks has found that youth and young adults living in Camden face multiple obstacles to successful employment in the corporate workforce due to significant levels of trauma and adversity, lack of familiarity with corporate culture, and lack of technical skills.

Through this project, Hopeworks staff provided Subaru employees multiple trainings on the impact of adversity on workplace performance. Based on these trainings and the principles of trauma informed care, Subaru employees then developed and delivered trainings to youth interns on business topics including communication, conflict resolution, and developing successful mentoring relationships.

Given that Subaru intends to continue providing more paid internships to Camden youth, the findings in Hopeworks’ “Growing Opportunities” report suggest a model other RWJF-supported communities may find useful in engaging the business sector to build a Culture of Health.

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