Hackensack Meridian Health Receives Significant Grant Funding to Pilot HealthySteps, a Program of ZERO TO THREE, in Network’s Pediatric Primary Care Practices

January 29, 2020

Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center Foundation is pleased to announce that Judy Aschner, M.D., chair of pediatrics and physician-in-chief of the Hackensack Meridian Health Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital and clinical director, Children’s Care Transformation Services at Hackensack Meridian Health has been awarded significant grant funding to pilot HealthySteps, a program of ZERO TO THREE. With the support of collaborating funders, The Burke Foundation, The Nicholson Foundation and the Turrell Fund, the pilot will be implemented in three of the network’s pediatric primary care practices. The total amount to be funded to Hackensack Meridian Health by the three foundations is $838,489, while the total projected budget will be nearly $1.2 million, including in-kind giving and other funding provided by the collaborating funders to the HealthySteps national office at ZERO TO THREE.

The establishment of HealthySteps at Hackensack Meridian Health marks a significant population health milestone within the health care network. Currently, there are no HealthySteps pediatric practices in the state of New Jersey. With support from The Burke Foundation, The Nicholson Foundation and the Turrell Fund, in collaboration with ZERO TO THREE, Hackensack Meridian Health will pilot the first HealthySteps practices in the state to improve the health and well-being of at-risk children and families.

HealthySteps is an evidence-based, interdisciplinary pediatric primary care program that promotes positive parenting and healthy development for babies and toddlers with an emphasis on culturally diverse families living in low-income communities. The program will be implemented in three of Hackensack Meridian Health’s existing pediatric practices – the Pediatric Academic Practice/Pediatric Continuity Program in Hackensack, the Jane H. Booker Family Healthy Center in Neptune and Hackensack Meridian Health Medical Group Pediatrics in Asbury Park and Neptune. Each pediatric practice will benefit underserved families with children under age four.

The program connects families to resources for assistance with mental health, domestic violence, food, and housing issues, as well as offers guidance on common challenges such as feeding, behavior, sleep and adapting to life with a baby or young child. To implement the program, Hackensack Meridian Health Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital will add a full-time clinical social worker trained in the HealthySteps model to its practice in Hackensack. Two HealthySteps specialists will be added to Neptune’s two locations. These professionals will become integral parts of the primary care team at each location, broadening the teams and allowing inter-professional providers to offer comprehensive support and the highest quality of care.

Additionally, the grant funding also provides support for a data analyst and biostatistician to study the impact of this interprofessional model of care delivery on important child and parent outcomes, as well as provider satisfaction and burnout. Child-focused and adult-focused outcomes include well child care visit and vaccination rates, avoidance of childhood obesity, maternal depression screening and referral for services, and adherence to child safety practices among many others.

New Jersey is the 4th most ethnically diverse state in the country. The state faces numerous health challenges among mothers and young children due to a lack of accessible health care, especially in diverse and underserved communities. In Bergen and Monmouth counties, the focus areas to initiate the HealthySteps program, there are a total of 81,365 children living in poverty and 36,900 living with food insecurity, all under the age of five.

“Hackensack Meridian Health is committed to providing an outstanding patient care experience for all, including our youngest patients and their families,” said Robert Garrett, FACHE, CEO, Hackensack Meridian Health. “We look forward to the successful pilot of HealthySteps so we may integrate and spread the program to other primary care practices throughout New Jersey.”

“HealthySteps will enhance pediatric care for underserved children and their families at Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital,” said Mark D. Sparta, FACHE, president and chief hospital executive, Hackensack University Medical Center and executive vice president of Population Health, Hackensack Meridian Health. “This expansion of important pediatric and behavioral health care to our youngest patients at such critical stages in their development is crucial and we look forward to positive outcomes.”

As of 2019, the HealthySteps national network spanned more than 160 pediatric and family practice sites in more than 20 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.  The program has proven to significantly impact these participating communities around the U.S. and has demonstrated positive outcomes for children, their families and the physicians and practices they serve.

“The implementation of HealthySteps at Hackensack Meridian Health will provide accessible pediatric care and behavioral health services for young children and families in Bergen, Monmouth, and surrounding counties to address a full range of health care needs,” said Judy Aschner, M.D., principal investigator of the HealthySteps grant. “Our goal is to ensure the healthy development of our youngest patients. We are extremely grateful to receive such instrumental grant funding from The Burke Foundation, The Nicholson Foundation and the Turrell Fund.  We look forward to working together with the three foundations and the HealthySteps national office to pilot this program in New Jersey and collect data to sustain and spread the model throughout our state.”

“We thank The Burke Foundation, The Nicholson Foundation and the Turrell Fund for their joint generosity and support in funding HealthySteps at Hackensack Meridian Health,” said Helen A. Cunning, president and chief development officer of Hackensack University Medical Center Foundation. “HealthySteps is a worthy program that focuses on early childhood and healthcare for vulnerable populations. We are pleased and so very grateful for these gifts which will make this important initiative a reality in New Jersey.”

“We are thrilled to partner with Hackensack Meridian Health and grateful for the support of the ACEs Funders Collaborative to bring our evidence-based program to New Jersey’s babies, toddlers and their families,” said Rahil D. Briggs, Psy.D., national director of HealthySteps.

The mission of Hackensack Meridian Health and its constituent entities, including Hackensack University Medical Center and Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital, is to transform health care and be recognized as the leader of positive change. The Hackensack University Medical Center Foundation works in support of this mission. The Foundation has been the catalyst that engages generous individuals and organizations in opportunities to provide the best that medicine, biomedical and psychosocial research have to offer to patients. As the philanthropic arm of the medical center since 1980, the Foundation was established to seek private resources to support the mission of Hackensack University Medical Center.

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