Community Benefits

Investing in Community Health

Our mission to provide the full spectrum of life-enhancing care and services to create and sustain healthy, vibrant communities is at the heart of our charitable roots.

Hackensack Meridian Health is leading the way for health care’s expansion beyond hospital beds and into communities, where patients and experts come together to form the ultimate health networking hub. It’s all part of our mission to redefine traditional health care through technology and community, further enhancing engagement between hospitals, physicians and most importantly, patients.

As a not-for-profit health care provider, Hackensack Meridian Health is the regional leader in providing innovative and accessible health care programs and services to individuals, families and communities throughout the state. Everyone deserves access to quality care regardless of their ability to pay. In 2016, Hackensack Meridian Health provided $145 million in charity care and other uncompensated care, serving as a health care safety net for our community’s most vulnerable populations. In addition, Hackensack Meridian Health dedicated $47.8 million in subsidizing vital health services, such as outpatient dialysis, behavioral health services and family health clinics. In total, Hackensack Meridian Health devoted more than $252 million in community benefits in 2016.

Community Benefit Expense

Identifying Community Health Needs

Hackensack Meridian Health plays a lead role in working with many different organizations throughout New Jersey to identify and address the health issues that impact our communities the most. This collaborative effort is referred to as a Community Health Needs Assessment.

With the community health needs assessment as our guide, Hackensack Meridian Health prepares its annual community benefits plan, which is part of the overall strategic plan, and aligns activities and resources toward those priority health needs. Each hospital has prepared an implementation strategy that contains the specific programs and resources that will be deployed against each health priority including community partners with whom we collaborate on interventions.

Findings from the assessments highlighted several health concerns for our community, including access to health care services, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, injury and violence, mental health, nutrition, physical activity and weight, respiratory diseases and substance abuse.

Preventing Disease through Early Detection

Early detection is the best prevention. Our preventive health screenings include AngioScreen™ stroke risk assessments, blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, BMI, memory, hearing, diabetic retinopathy, bone density, breast, colorectal cancer, skin cancer, and more. Participants receive individualized testing from medical professionals and are counseled by nurse educators who provide information about their results and referrals for follow-up care when necessary.
Preventing Disease


Cancer Prevention and Awareness

Hackensack Meridian Health partners with many different community organizations who share the mission of reducing New Jersey’s cancer burden and improving health outcomes.

Skin Cancer

Ocean Monmouth Health Alliance (OMHA) is a regional chronic disease prevention coalition funded by the Office of Cancer Control and Prevention of NJ Department of Health. Hackensack Meridian Health partners with OMHA on their annual Choose Your Cover skin cancer screening at beaches, parks and other locations across the state. In 2016, there were 272 individuals who were screened at three locations. Of those, 11 basal cell carcinoma cases, three squamous cell carcinoma cases and one melanoma case were detected.

The John Theurer Cancer Center, the Promise Foundation of Ridgewood, NJ, and Hackensack Meridian Health collaborate to provide an educational initiative to teach youth sun-safe behaviors. In 2016, over 5,000 middle school students participated in this program and learned how to be sun safe.

Breast Cancer

Hackensack Meridian Health’s Every Woman Counts program, funded by a grant from Susan G. Komen, increased annual mammography screenings for low-income, uninsured, and underinsured women in Monmouth and Ocean counties by collaborating with local non-profit organizations that are successful in engaging hard-to-reach communities such as: elderly, Hispanic, black, LGBT, undocumented immigrants, and the homeless. Through this collaborative program, culturally and linguistically appropriate breast health education was provided to over 1,400 women, 75 percent of whom demonstrated an increase in knowledge about breast health. A total of 400 mammogram screening vouchers were distributed and 150 diagnostic screenings were provided for women who require additional testing due to screening abnormalities. Transportation assistance for mammogram appointments and navigation throughout the continuum of care was also provided.

Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is one of the most preventable and, if detected early, the most treatable forms of cancer. In 2016, there were 419 community members who attended a seminar and 201 take-home colorectal kits were distributed. Of those, 89 kits were returned and nine cases tested positive for cancer. Each of these community members were paired up with a Hackensack Meridian Health cancer navigator to assist in obtaining the necessary diagnostic testing and treatment.

Eighth Annual Celebrating Life & Liberty

Thousands of cancer survivors gathered along with their families, friends, physicians and members of The John Theurer Cancer Center team at the Celebrating Life & Liberty event at Liberty State Park. The day gives patients and families an opportunity to come together and celebrate their lives and journeys, as well as offer one another hope and support.

To honor, celebrate and support patients with cancer, Andre Goy, M.D., chairman and director of The John Theurer Cancer Center, created the Celebrating Life & Liberty event. The idea for the program came while treating a patient who worked as a curator at the Statue of Liberty, a gift to the United States from Dr. Goy’s native France. The idea of liberty resonated because of his belief that patients should be liberated from cancer. Having heard the rich history of Ellis Island, and its symbolic importance of rebirth to millions of new Americans, Dr. Goy convinced the National Park Service to contribute the park for the event. The first Celebrating Life & Liberty event was held on Ellis Island in 2009 and about 700 people attended.

Over the years, the crowds have continued to grow in force, diversity and determination to nearly 4,000 people. The growth in attendance each year is a powerful testimony to the important meaning the event has to patients and caregivers. It is also an illustration of the continued progress against cancer. Over the years, in addition to survivors sharing their stories in song, poetry, prose and performance, professional artists have energized and coalesced the diverse crowds with stories of hope and survival. The event brings together people of all walks of life, where cancer knows no race or religion, and everyone is an equal opportunity victim and survivor.

Managing Chronic Disease

According to the CDC, chronic disease accounts for seven in 10 deaths each year and accounts for 86 percent of the nation’s spending on health care. Half of all American adults have at least one chronic condition and almost one in three have multiple chronic conditions. Hackensack Meridian Health focuses much of its community health education on managing and preventing chronic disease.

Take Control of Your Health

Take Control of Your Health is an evidence-based chronic disease self-management program. Complementing a physician’s plan of care, this educational program offers participants with the tools, resources and support to live a healthier life. Studies have shown that participants who complete the training report improved health status and quality of life, greater energy, fewer social limitations as well as reduced hospitalizations and fewer emergency room visits. Take Control of Your Health is also offered for diabetes patients and caregivers, and focuses on the unique needs of those individuals.

Healthy Futures: Pediatric Weight-Management Program

The number of overweight children and adolescents in our country has been increasing steadily. Children and adolescents who are overweight are at increased risk for complications such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. In addition, emotional and social functioning may be negatively impacted.

Healthy Futures is a medically based pediatric weight management program for children ranging from 8 to 18 years old. It is based at HackensackUMC Fitness & Wellness Powered by the Giants in Maywood, a dynamic 112,000-square-foot center designed to keep members of the community well. The comprehensive weight-management program for boys and girls addresses topics such as emotional and social eating, self-esteem, coping with social pressures, and learning to make healthy food choices.
Healthy Futures was created in 2011 to improve the overall health and self-esteem of children and adolescents who are overweight or obese. Overweight children and childhood obesity is a growing problem that threatens to reduce both the quality and quantity of life of future generations of Americans. Using donated funds, we have had the opportunity to offer cooking demonstrations and educational sessions on nutrition and wellness to members of the community. To date, more than 200 families have benefited from the Healthy Futures program.

Community Outreach for Asthma Care and Health (COACH)

COACH at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital at Jersey Shore University Medical Center is a program designed to improve the quality of life for children with asthma and their families. It’s all about teaching asthma self-management and reducing exposure to asthma triggers.

Hospital-based services provided by COACH include patient/family centered asthma education for all children with an admitting diagnosis of asthma, post-hospital telephone follow up, and home visits for at-risk populations to reinforce asthma self-management and home assessment for triggers. Trigger remediation equipment such as vacuums and dust mite covers are provided for those in most need.

Community-based services include a pediatric asthma clinic at Booker Family Health Center; a monthly asthma program at the K. Hovnanian Wellness Center, Midtown School in Neptune where children in the district receive a complete asthma assessment by a pediatric pulmonologist, which includes pulmonary function tests with education and follow up by a member of the COACH Team; an in-school Asthma Education program for middle school children with asthma where students are taught self-management skills and are encouraged to share their experiences living with asthma in an informal setting; educational lectures for school nurses in the surrounding communities; and parent programs in schools and at work as well as participation in community health fairs and other events.

Health Promotion – Providing Opportunities to Learn

It’s never been easier to connect with Hackensack Meridian Health. Opportunities to learn can be found at our hospitals, conference centers and Fitness & Wellness locations, as well as right in the community – the local library, senior center, school, employer, and now even at the shopping mall. In fact, more than 100,000 people attended an educational seminar in 2016.

Our programs are delivered by a dedicated team of health care professionals and physicians, many of whom volunteer their time, to educate our community on health topics focused on preventing disease, managing chronic conditions and improving overall quality of life. Hackensack Meridian Health’s Community Outreach team has received special training in health literacy as well as cultural competence to ensure the best possible experience for our diverse community.

The Power of Food

As members of the Teaching Kitchen Collaborative, a partner organization of Harvard School of Public Health and the Culinary Institute of America, Hackensack Meridian Health is part of a national initiative developing standards of practice for healthy kitchens, partnering on research as well as engaging with experts across the country that are committed to healthy nutrition for all people.

Hackensack Meridian Health is home to five teaching kitchens across the state – Maywood, Hackensack, Old Bridge, Hazlet and Red Bank. The teaching kitchen is a platform for community members to explore food, nutrition and culinary literacy to positively impact food choices and experience that ultimately promotes healthy behaviors in the home – and, in the community.

Programs are led by an executive chef and registered dietitian with a curriculum to teach culinary and nutrition literacy, incorporate foods from locally grown sources and include interactive cooking demonstrations.

In support of our efforts to teach our communities about good nutrition, dietitian Laura Coti Garrett, MS, RDN, demonstrates how to prepare a healthy pumpkin soup.

Learning Garden at Raritan Bay Medical Center

Hundreds of organic produce, including purple potatoes, eggplants, spicy lettuce, collard greens, peppers, cherry tomatoes and more, were distributed to patients, volunteer gardeners, team members and others as part of Raritan Bay Medical Center’s The Learning Garden.

The container garden education program began in the summer of 2015 with a goal of providing hands-on education for children and adults about the basics of gardening and the importance of healthy produce and proper nutrition. Raritan Bay’s Integrative Health Services spearheaded the creation of the garden through a donation from the medical center’s medical staff, with help from numerous team members and community volunteers and under the guidance of Master Gardener Connie Elek.

The Learning Garden serves many purposes.  It provides an opportunity for everyone to not only learn the basics of gardening and nutrition, but to also get some exercise, socialize and empower community members to create their own gardens at home. The community and team members participated in many free gardening education sessions and lunch and learn events over the summer, learning how to garden and about the nutritional and medicinal value of fresh produce.

Learning Garden


Veggie Mobile

Mountainside Medical Center partners with City Green Veggie Mobile to bring fresh produce and other healthful foods to the community. Alongside the mobile farm stand, the hospital provides onsite blood pressure and diabetes screenings and nutrition education, with recipes provided by a registered dietitian. Several hundred community members shop at the veggie mobile and partake of the preventive screenings each season.

Centering Pregnancy

Jane H. Booker Family Health Center is proud to be a Certified Centering Pregnancy site. Centering Pregnancy is a unique model of prenatal care that empowers women to choose health promoting behaviors. This multifaceted model of group care, provided in both Spanish and English, integrates three major components of care: health assessment, education and support. Pregnant women meet together, learn self-care and parenting skills, participate in a facilitated discussion about prenatal care, birth and infant care, and develop a support network with other group members. The group meets for eight to 10 sessions throughout the prenatal period and is facilitated by both certified staff members trained in Centering Pregnancy, and physician providers or a nurse midwife. Participants boast a 99 percent satisfaction rate of their experience in the Centering Pregnancy program. This program was also part of a CMS demonstration project called Strong Start.
Centering Pregnancy


Injury Prevention Programs

Project Healthy Bones is a 24-week exercise and education program for older women and men at risk for, or who have osteoporosis. The program is offered in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Health. In 2016, Hackensack University Medical Center collaborated with the communities of Montvale, Ramsey and Ridgefield to provide this program to their communities. Currently, there are over 125 participants.

In 2016 Hackensack Meridian Health was awarded a New Jersey Department of Human Services grant for delivery of the evidence-based fall prevention program: A Matter of Balance: Managing Concerns about Falls. This eight-week workshop emphasizes practical strategies to reduce fear of falling and increase activity levels. Falls among New Jersey’s seniors and adults with disabilities result in physical, psychological and financial hardships for individuals and place a significant burden on caregivers, social services and health care agencies. In 2016, there were 14 workshops offered and over 200 older adults participated in this program.

Local Health Agency Partnership

The Health Awareness Regional Program (HARP) of Hackensack University Medical Center has been committed to providing the highest quality of health promotion and illness prevention services in Bergen County since 1977. We are proud of the strong collaborative relationships with community organizations and local health agency partners to provide high-quality professional health education and public health services to 22 Bergen County municipalities. As part of the public health response to vaccine preventable disease, HARP worked with health officers, public health nurses, health departments, municipalities, and child care centers. Through this partnership, more than 2,000 at-risk individuals were vaccinated.

The Pawsitive Action Team
Over 10,000 children were educated on how to eat right, stay fit, be safe and act responsibly. Our children’s health education programs include classroom-based presentations from The Pawsitive Action Team, including Doctor Bernard, Hopscotch and Picatso, mascots for the K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

Over 10,000 children were educated on how to eat right, stay fit, be safe and act responsibly. Our children’s health education programs include classroom-based presentations from The Pawsitive Action Team, including Doctor Bernard, Hopscotch and Picatso, mascots for the K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

Community of LifeSavers

Cardiac arrest is more common than you might think. It can happen to anyone at any time, including our youth. In fact, the American Heart Association (AHA) estimates that about 100 student athletes will die from sudden cardiac arrest each year. While the incidence remains low, the impact on the family and surrounding community is tremendous.

That’s why Hackensack Meridian Health created a landmark, multi-year initiative to Create a Community of LifeSavers. When ordinary people are equipped with the skills to perform CPR, survival rate can double or even triple.

Nearly 5,000 students are trained each year in CPR and AED use. This program is offered at no cost to the school or student. In addition to helping schools comply with Janet’s Law, the program is designed to build a sustainable CPR training infrastructure by training staff from each school district as a CPR instructor, enabling them to train additional teachers, administrators and students in their district.

Providing broad CPR training to the community has been part of Hackensack Meridian Health’s educational offerings for years, including health care workers, fire fighters, police, teachers, EMTs, and community members.

Our community now has an army of rescuers who are ready, willing and able to put their skills in action in the event of an emergency.

Hope Unseen

Blindness became Major Scotty Smiley’s journey of supreme testing. As he lay helpless in the hospital, he resented the theft of his dreams, but with the support of his family, friends and God, the injury only intensified his indomitable spirit. Since then, he has climbed Mount Rainier, won an ESPY as Best Outdoor Athlete, surfed, skydived, become a father, earned an MBA from Duke, taught leadership at West Point, commanded an army company, won the MacArthur Leadership Award and completed an Iron Man. With a passion for using his story to build hope in this world, Scotty shares his message of perseverance, courage and hope.

Over 200 community members, many blind or visually impaired, participated in this inspiring and educational program made possible through funding from the Mitchell-Vassar Bright Future Legacy. In addition to the inspirational message from motivational speaker Scotty Smiley, a health coach discussed having a sense of purpose. A sense of purpose is that which gives meaning to one’s life. Purpose is often discovered through a major life change or crisis.  Having a purpose is what makes life meaningful, but it is a choice. It is the choice to bring who we are, our gifts and talents to respond to something we believe in, something larger than ourselves and can greatly affect your overall wellbeing.

The Mitchell-Vassar Bright Future Legacy has been made possible by the generous donations of Janice Mitchell-Vassar.
Over 200 community members attended last year’s annual Mitchell-Vassar Vision Awareness Day
Other Community Support

In addition, Hackensack Meridian Health is proud to offer support through charitable donations to a host of worthy, local not-for-profit organizations who share in our mission to improve the health status of the community. Hackensack Meridian Health also encourages our leaders, physicians, and team members to serve on a variety of boards and community groups dedicated to improving the quality of life in our neighborhoods. As a socially conscious member of the community, Hackensack Meridian Health focuses its charitable giving on the areas that support or are aligned with our charitable mission. In 2016, Hackensack Meridian Health provided $985,000 in cash and in-kind support.

Training the Next Generation of Health Care Providers

Training the next generation of health care providers is vital to providing a foundation for sound health in our community. Hackensack Meridian Health encourages the development of physicians, nurses, medical technologists, and those entering allied health professions by supporting their education and offering clinical experience in our hospitals. Through our extensive community outreach program, medical students and residents also regularly participate in health promotion activities where they learn to recognize and identify community needs and health disparities, improve health literacy communication skills and cultural sensitivity and foster an appreciation for population health management. In 2016, Hackensack Meridian Health provided $36.3 million in benefits, which helps support medical training.