Newswise — HACKENSACK, NJ – January 29, 2019 – 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.

About Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center

Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center, a 781-bed nonprofit teaching and research hospital located in Bergen County, NJ, is the largest provider of inpatient and outpatient services in the state. Founded in 1888 as the county’s first hospital, it is now part of the largest, most comprehensive and truly integrated health care network in New Jersey, offering a complete range of medical services, innovative research and life-enhancing care, which is comprised of 35,000 team members and more than 7,000 physicians. Hackensack University Medical Center is ranked #2 in New Jersey and #59 in the country in U.S. News & World Report’s 2019-20 Best Hospital rankings and is ranked high-performing in the U.S. in  colon cancer surgery, lung cancer surgery, COPD, heart failure, heart bypass surgery, aortic valve surgery, abdominal aortic aneurysm repair, knee replacement and hip replacement. Out of 4,500 hospitals evaluated, Hackensack is one of only 57 that received a top rating in all nine procedures and conditions. Hackensack University Medical Center is one of only five major academic medical centers in the nation to receive Healthgrades America’s 50 Best Hospitals Award for five or more years in a row. Becker’s Hospital Review recognized Hackensack University Medical Center as one of the 100 Great Hospitals in America 2018. The medical center is one of the top 25 green hospitals in the country according to Practice Greenhealth, and received 26 Gold Seals of Approval™ by The Joint Commission – more than any other hospital in the country. It was the first hospital in New Jersey and second in the nation to become a Magnet® recognized hospital for nursing excellence; receiving its sixth consecutive designation in 2019. Hackensack University Medical Center has created an entire campus of award-winning care, including: John Theurer Cancer Center, a consortium member of the NCI-designated Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center; the Heart & Vascular Hospital; and the Sarkis and Siran Gabrellian Women’s and Children’s Pavilion, which houses the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital and Donna A. Sanzari Women’s Hospital, which was designed with The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center® and listed on the Green Guide’s list of Top 10 Green Hospitals in the U.S. Hackensack University Medical Center is the Hometown Hospital of the New York Giants and the New York Red Bulls and is Official Medical Services Provider to THE NORTHERN TRUST PGA Golf Tournament. It remains committed to its community through fundraising and community events especially the Tackle Kids Cancer Campaign providing much needed research at the Children’s Cancer Institute housed at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital. To learn more, visit

About HealthySteps
HealthySteps is an evidence-based program of ZERO TO THREE, the nation’s leading nonprofit working to ensure all babies and toddlers have a strong start in life. HealthySteps transforms the promise of pediatric primary care through a unique approach that integrates a HealthySteps Specialist, a child development expert, into the health care team. All children ages 0-3 and their families receive a tiered model of services, from universal screening to risk-stratified supports, including care coordination and onsite intervention, as needed. HealthySteps practices serve as trusted and valuable partners as families foster their children’s healthy development. Together, the national network of HealthySteps sites aims to reach more than 1 million young children annually by 2032. Visit or contact ZERO TO THREE to learn more.

About The Burke Foundation
The Burke Foundation is a private foundation based in Princeton, New Jersey. It funds transformative early childhood initiatives to foster the healthy development of families and communities in New Jersey. The Burke Foundation focuses on three key areas: healthy pregnancies and births, positive parent-child relationships, and high-quality early care and learning. Learn more at 

About The Nicholson Foundation
The Nicholson Foundation is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of vulnerable populations in New Jersey. The Foundation’s approach emphasizes partnerships and performance-based grant making; its goal is sustainable systems reform. For more information about the Foundation visit 

About the Turrell Fund
The Turrell Fund supports organizations that increase access to high-quality services for at-risk children, especially the youngest, and their families in northern New Jersey and Vermont.  While the Fund works on multiple strategic initiatives, it is fundamentally dedicated to assisting vital, community-based nonprofits. The Turrell Fund also serves as a convener, bringing together organizations and individuals to build toward greater impact.