On September 21, 2016, the Senator Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs in partnership with stakeholders in the City of Bridgeton and Cumberland County held the official kickoff meeting for the Bridgeton Health Coalition. Held at the Marino Center located at the Gateway Community Action Partnership Complex, WRI’s own Kristin Curtis (Senior Project Administrator) and Paul Smith (Project Coordinator) facilitated the meeting and discussed the primary focus of the coalition for the next year which is the development of a Strategic Plan that will work to holistically address health issues in Bridgeton. Mayor Albert B. Kelly, City of Bridgeton, attended as well as nearly 40 representatives from the public, non-profit, and for-profit sectors were in attendance.

The City of Bridgeton was recently selected to receive the Building a Culture of Health—Moving Communities to Action Grant from the New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI). NJHI is the statewide grant making arm of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) which is the United States’ largest philanthropy entity focused exclusively on health. Over the course of the past two years, NJHI has been working to build a Culture of Health in 20 communities in New Jersey. NJHI encourages communities to approach health from a broad and inclusive standpoint, meaning health is not the only factor examined. For instance, poverty, income, the environment, access to education and employment as well as safe, stable, affordable housing are just a few of the factors to be included for consideration. The charge of this coalition is to complete a Blueprint for Action due in May 2017. The Blueprint for Action is a strategic plan that will incorporate short and long-term goals around strategies to improve health outcomes in the City of Bridgeton.

WRI is serving as the neutral convener and facilitator for the Bridgeton Health Coalition. Staff members will provide logistical and technical support such as data for the coalition to use as they identify gaps in services, duplication in efforts, and areas in need of attention in Bridgeton. The coalition will work with existing partnerships in the community and foster relationships across various correlated efforts in the city and county.