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Tom Sullivan

October 10, 2017
Tom Sullivan

The world may not know it yet, but Newark, New Jersey’s economic and cultural renaissance has been underway for over twenty years.  I have seen the renaissance gradually taking shape, first as a patron of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, a world class entertainment venue.  I also love the Prudential Center, aka “The Rock,” because it’s the home of the NJ Devils who are proud of their New Jersey roots. (Yes, that’s a dig to the NY Giants and the NY Jets who play in New Jersey.)  Finally, our agency had the opportunity to work with Brick City Development and see the master plan for Newark’s economic resurgence come to life over the last seven years.  Now, major corporations are moving in, technology companies are multiplying, universities are flourishing and the arts and cultural scene is thriving. I wouldn’t be surprised if Newark wins the national competition to land Headquarters 2 for Amazon. Seriously!


What I find equally invigorating is the coming together of many organizations to create a culture of health in Newark.  A non-profit called Believe in a Healthy Newark recently held a conference called: “Building a Culture of Health in Newark.” I’ve been to many conferences where professional speakers make outstanding presentations to inform the audience.  But this conference did a lot more than inform me.  It inspired and engaged me.  How did they do it?

  1. Insightful presentations about real-world issues and strategies were made by experts who are fully vested in the health and wellness of the people of Newark.
  2. Second, the conference break-out sessions were tied to strategic work groups who are translating insights into collaborative action. Impact Teams include
    • Food and Fitness
    • Healthy Homes
    • Adverse Childhood Experiences
  3. Third, there was a visionary call for participation by a leadership group that will continue to inform, engage and work with all the players who want to contribute to a Healthy Newark. No walls, no asks for money, no pretenses.  Genuine focus on the mission.


One eye-opener was learning about the importance of a collaborative impact model to creating a culture of health.  An individual’s health status is far more influenced by social determinants and personal behavior than by clinical care and the physical environment. As society moves to proactively managing the health of populations rather than just reactively addressing the acute needs of the ill, a “village” of players must come together in a holistic and integrated way. This approach will move a city closer to improving an individual’s personal health and its community’s collective health.


Factor: Percent of impact
Social Determinants 40%
Personal Behavior 30%
Clinical Care 20%
Physical Environment 10%


One example of a social determinant of health is the number of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) that an individual may experience in her childhood.  A hospitalization of a child with asthma, exposure to violence, or food insecurity are examples of an ACE. This robust field of study shows startling correlations between a high number of ACEs and educational attainment, economic success, and lifespan.  Someone in the high quintile of ACEs will likely have a life span that is 20 years less than the average American.


Based on this conference, the hundreds of engaged participants, and a new awareness of the many initiatives that are addressing social, behavioral, clinical and environmental conditions, I do believe in a healthy Newark.  I am also excited that the solution created by Princeton Partners’ Activity Works, is being sponsored by Novo Nordisk and by the Devils Care Foundation to help elementary aged kids in Newark increase their daily physical activity while learning about nutrition, healthy food, and behavior choices.  We’re engaged!