The City of Rocky Mount is going to receive a $25,000 prize from the largest philanthropic organization devoted exclusively to health.
Municipal officials on Tuesday at City Hall announced the money is coming via the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Culture of Health award, with the city to be one of 10 to receive such an honor for 2020-21.
The foundation is located in Princeton, N.J., and was formed in 1972 after the death of Robert Wood Johnson II, who formerly was the board chairman of health care giant Johnson & Johnson.
The Culture of Health awards honor and elevate communities in the nation working at the forefront of advancing health, opportunity and equity for all.
Councilman Reuben Blackwell said that the foundation is literally the defining health care organization in the nation that provides data and research for policy from the federal government to state governments down to local governments.
Blackwell said that the foundation analyzes and assesses what health means and what health looks like in communities across the nation.
Of the $25,000 to be awarded, Blackwell gave credit to City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney and to Assistant to the City Manager-designee Kenneth Hunter for “having the foresight to understand that we have so many great things in Rocky Mount that get lost in negativity that sometimes is manufactured, such that data becomes not as important as what manufactured stories are.
“And what I want to say is the Robert Wood Johnson award for Culture of Health is like the Grammys of health care in America,” Blackwell said. “To have this award, it’s not the money — $25,000 is great, but we know $25,000 can’t change anybody’s true reality.”
He told of the foundation recognizing partnerships and collaborations that change communities from the inside out.
Blackwell is president and CEO of the Opportunities Industrialization Center, which seeks to help provide residents with employment training and health care.
As he spoke, he was flanked by an OIC team that included Councilman Andre Knight, who chairs the OIC’s board.
Blackwell said that the OIC was quite fortunate years ago to be selected by the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, in an OIC collaboration with the N.C. Community Development Association and Legal Aid of North Carolina, to form what was named Transforming Rocky Mount.
Blackwell said that the OIC took data the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation provided about Rocky Mount and analyzed the data with the City of Rocky Mount’s analyst.