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Conference eyes policies, opportunities to advance healthy living in NJ

December 5, 2016 | Media Coverage

Originally posted on
Staff Report, @MyCentralJersey

The New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids (NJPHK), a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, co-hosted the Building a Culture of Health in New Jersey: Advancing the Population Health Agenda Conference on Nov. 30 at the Pines Manor in Edison.

More than 400 public health professionals, social workers, educators, dieticians, and community leaders from across the state learned how communities can create policy and environmental changes that can surround children and families with opportunities to make healthy choices, according to a news release.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 63 percent of adults and nearly one in four children ages 10 to 17 in New Jersey are overweight or obese. This leads to a plethora of health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol — chronic illnesses that were in the past associated with adults instead of children.

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The event’s keynote speaker was Maya Rockeymoore, president and CEO of Global Policy Solutions; a Washington, DC-based social change nonprofit agency dedicated to making policy work for people and their environments. Rockeymoore also directs Leadership for Healthy Communities, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) dedicated to helping state and local elected and appointed officials advance policies that support healthy eating, active living and childhood obesity prevention.

Rockeymore discussed the “Inclusion Revolution; Advancing a Health Equity Agenda for the Nation.”

“When it comes to public health and equity, our nation has a double standard,”  she said during her presentation, arguing that if we want America to continue into the future to be a nation that is great — to have an economy that is expansive and inclusive and sustains our children, we cannot let these double standards continue.

The audience also heard from 10-year old Joshua Pantoja Jr., who discussed how his participation in the NJPHK’s Healthy Family Weekend cooking class inspired him to make healthier choices and become a contestant on the Food Network’s “Chopped Junior” show earlier this year.

The one-day Culture of Health Conference focused on

  • The linkage between health and health care
  • How policy and environmental changes can better support communities
  • The impact of private and public decision making on health.

Local experts led morning and afternoon workshops on a variety of public health topics including: early childhood obesity prevention, food access, behavioral health, hospital/community partnerships, contributions of school nurses, and national equity.


Bill Lovett, executive director of the New Jersey Alliance of YMCAs (left), presents the Culture of Health Award to Rutgers University for their commitment and support of a Culture of Health in New Jersey. Accepting the award is Dr. Robert Goodman, executive dean of the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and the New Jersey Agricultural Station (center) and Kathleen Morgan, department chair of the Family and Community Health Sciences at Rutgers University. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)


Healthy Champions recognized

During the conference, awards were presented in recognition of organizations and individuals who are committed to creating changes that surround kids and families with opportunities to make healthy choices. The 2016 award recipients were:

Rutgers University – Culture of Health Champion

  • Recognized for being a forerunner in New Jersey in establishing programs that advance nutrition, physical activity, health promotion and chronic disease prevention.

Joshua Pantoja Jr. – Healthy Kids Champion

  • Recognized for his commitment as a youth advocate, as well as his passion for helping family and friends make healthier choices.

The conference was co-sponsored by the New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, New Jersey YMCA State Alliance; American Academy of Pediatrics, New Jersey Chapter; New Jersey Health Initiatives; Shaping NJ; New Jersey Department of Health; and Get Moving – Get Healthy New Jersey, Dept. of Family and Community Health Sciences.


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