Ninth Annual Building A Culture of Health Conference To Focus Healing Communities Hurt By Pandemic

By: Follow South Jersey Staff

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – “Healing Communities and Connecting Voices” is the theme of the ninth annual “Building a Culture of Health in New Jersey” conference that opens Thursday evening, December 9, in Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center in Atlantic City. 

The two-day conference is co-sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the New Jersey Department of Health, the NJ YMCA State Alliance, and Healthy New Jersey 2030

Speakers and attendees will gather both in person and virtually to focus on health equity and healing communities as a result of a pandemic that has deepened existing health disparities and inequities – especially among marginalized and underrepresented communities. They will also share personal stories about their experiences and discuss strategies to improve the health and well-being of New Jersey’s communities.

The conference will begin with presentations of artwork, poems, and performances by selected “Community Conversation” participants describing their experiences during the pandemic.

“Community Conversations: Pandemic Perspectives Showcase” is a partnership between the NJ YMCA State Alliance and the NJ Department of Health to capture the accounts of New Jersey residents experiencing increased vulnerability, marginalization, and isolation during COVID-19.

The project has documented over 580 resident experiences through interviews, focus groups, written narratives, journals, and creative works, including poetry, spoken word, paintings, drawings, sculptures, graphic art, short films, video logs, and songs.

“The project captured the experiences of residents with an emphasis on those who have faced increased risk as a result of the pandemic,” according to their website. “Stories were collected from all 21 NJ counties from August 2020 through March 2021. Submissions included individual interviews, focus groups, social media dialogues, creative artworks, and journaling.”

Attendees are expected to include public health professionals, social workers, educators, dieticians, leaders of the YMCA, and other community groups and representatives of hospitals.

Dr. Jubril Oyeyemi is founder of the Cherry Hill Free Clinic, Medical Director of Care Management Initiatives at the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, and an Internal Medicine Physician at Virtua Health will be the keynote speaker along with Dave Ellis, the first Executive Director of the NJ Office of Resilience in the NJ Department of Children and Families which coordinates statewide efforts to prevent, protect against and heal from the effects of adverse childhood experiences.

Other speakers include Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small, Dr. Darrin Anderson, CEO, NJ YMCA State Alliance, Co-Chair, Culture of Health Conference, and Dr. Brent L. Arnold, Dean, School of Health Sciences, Stockton University.

Commissioner, New Jersey Department of Health Judith M. Persichilli and Congressman Andy Kim, NJ 3rd Congressional District, will address the conference virtually.

The conference will offer a number of breakout workshops with topics that include mental health, health equity, childcare and early childcare, stories of hope and resilience, social isolation, and vaccination among other critical topics in healthcare.

To register for the conference, visit To view the conference agenda, visit click here.

For more information about “Community Conversations: Pandemic Perspectives,” click here.

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