Three Winners Announced in Competition to Identify Nudges Leading to Better Health

    • June 3, 2009

The global search for individuals and institutions that help people make healthier choices for themselves and others is now over. Three organizations offering creative and inventive nudges—those innovative pushes that lead people to make better decisions—have won “Designing for Better Health,” a unique online competition co-sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and Ashoka’s Changemakers.  

The three winners are: 

  • Just a Piece of Cloth—GOONJ (India) (GOONJ means echo) collects donated cloth and creates clean sanitary pads that it then distributes to women, helping to reduce infections and bringing out in the open the taboo subject of menstrual hygiene.
  • Healthy Amazon—San Francisco Saludable (Peru) is a unique waste management program that nudges people to change their traditional habits to improve their health by producing compost for family gardens where healthy foods are grown.
  • Child Promoters on Oral Health—Fundación Boca Sana (Venezuela) nudges children to better oral health by training them to act as scholar/promoters, sharing what they have learned about proper oral hygiene and care with other children, parents and relatives. 

 Launched by RWJF’s Pioneer Portfolio, which supports innovative ideas that may lead to breakthroughs in the future of health and health care, the “Designing for Better Health” competition drew more than 285 entries from 29 countries. Using the open-source model developed by Changemakers, the competition promotes enterprising solutions to challenges that affect health and health care in the United States and across the globe. Each winning organization receives a $5,000 Changemakers cash award.

Inspired by the influential book Nudge by behavioral economics experts Cass R. Sunstein, J.D. and Richard Thaler, Ph.D., the “Designing for Better Health” competition was developed in consultation with Thaler. This is the fourth in a series of competitions co-sponsored by the Pioneer Portfolio and Changemakers.  

“This competition brought to light exciting, inventive and often simple ways to promote healthy living. These entries also remind us of the power of a great idea and passionate individuals working together to make change in the lives of so many,” said Paul Tarini, director of RWJF’s Pioneer Portfolio. “The Foundation, through its Pioneer Portfolio, is proud to have sponsored 'Designing for Better Health,' which has stimulated a lively and robust conversation on how we can develop nudges that help us make decisions that improve our health and that of others.”

The winners were selected through a collaborative review process that paired expert judging with voting by the Changemakers community, a global network of social entrepreneurs. Changemakers staff, together with the judges, narrowed the entries to 10 top finalists. The Changemakers online community then had two weeks to vote for top nudges that would likely generate the greatest social and health impact.  

The judges included: Brian Wansink, John Dyson Professor of Consumer Behavior at Cornell University and director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab; H. Carrie Chen, associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of California/San Francisco; Jose Gomez-Marquez, program director, Innovations in International Health initiative at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Paul Tarini, director, RWJF’s Pioneer Portfolio; and Wellington Noguiera Santos, founder and general coordinator, Doutores Da Alegria (Doctors of Joy). 

"This was an incredible opportunity to explore innovative ideas and their potential for social impact. Each of the finalists we evaluated presented subtle yet lasting behavioral changes to promote better health. We were impressed by the intelligence, simplicity and diversity of the initiatives, as well as the opportunities for replication and global scale," according to a statement from the “Designing for Better Health" panel of judges.

To select the finalists, judges evaluated entries according to their degree of innovation, social impact, potential sustainability and the degree to which they represented a “nudge” toward behavioral changes that improve health.

 “This competition marks one of our most successful endeavors and has surpassed our highest expectations,” said Charlie Brown, Changemakers’ executive director. “It is a great example of what can happen when Changemakers come together to focus on solutions. We’ve offered up an online space through which people in the health sector can exchange ideas, network and assist one another, and make valuable and unique changes in the health care system, and that is what has happened.”


 About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. The Foundation's Pioneer Portfolio supports innovative ideas and projects that may lead to important breakthroughs in health and health care. Projects in the Pioneer Portfolio are future-oriented and look beyond conventional thinking to explore solutions at the cutting edge of health and health care. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime.

About Ashoka’s Changemakers

Changemakers is an initiative of Ashoka, an organization with more than three decades of finding, funding and expanding the work of social entrepreneurs across the globe. The Changemakers online community builds on this history and expands the Ashoka vision by creating an “Everyone a Changemaker” world through networking, online competitions, and relationship-building. Changemakers creates opportunities for those who want to be at the center of social change by offering competitions that are supported by philanthropic organizations. The competitions and the community connect those who are passionate about change and make ideas come to life.

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