Building Healthier Communities in New Jersey through Environmental, Policy and Systems Change – Reflections on NJHI’s Grantmaking
For three decades, New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI), the statewide grantmaking program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has been working to build healthier communities across New Jersey. Although no singular policy, system, or environmental change will achieve NJHI’s goal of optimizing health opportunities for all, below are several examples of the kinds of the incremental policy changes we hope to see over the next three years, which reflect a return on NJHI grantmaking:
Youth Engagement – Through the Next Generation Community Leaders initiative, NJHI is working with communities to engage more than 200 youth from vulnerable communities as change agents and future leaders. Policy changes within municipal government, school boards, and community serving organizations to increase the representation of youth in decision-making are policies that improve the health of communities and increase the life chances of youth.
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training – A growing number of our stakeholders – law enforcement, school personnel, community-based leaders – have expressed an interest in MHFA training. For example, some of our school nurse partners have already received the training and school superintendents are interested in this training as a way to address some of the mental health needs in their schools. Developing policies in secondary education, higher education, and law enforcement to support MHFA training in New Jersey will improve health in New Jersey.
Data sharing – Working with state and national partners (e.g., Data Across Sectors for Health), NJHI aims to support the development of local and state policies that give all community stakeholders access to data tools and resources by reducing barriers, sharing lessons learned, and promoting promising practices for sharing data and information across sectors.