Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Expands Its Reach in the Southern United States

Community Health Leaders award partners with Houston-based Harris Foundation.

    • January 18, 2010

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is pleased to announce that the national program office (NPO) of the RWJF Community Health Leaders (CHL) Award will now be based at the Harris Foundation in Houston, Texas. The Community Health Leaders Award will continue as an RWJF-funded program as the national program office forms a strategic and supportive partnership with the Harris Foundation.

“With the Community Health Leaders’ national program office now based in Houston, RWJF will expand its reach to grow our family of dedicated and innovative leaders,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and chief executive officer of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “We look forward to celebrating this next phase of growth for the 17-year-old Community Health Leaders Award.”

The Community Health Leaders Award elevates the work of leaders by raising awareness of their extraordinary contributions through national visibility, a $125,000 award and networking opportunities. These leaders overcome significant obstacles to tackle some of the most challenging health and health care problems facing their communities and the nation. Today, there are 173 Community Health Leaders in nearly all states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

The program will continue under the able leadership of Janice Ford Griffin, who has administered Community Health Leaders at RWJF headquarters in Princeton for the past two years.

In reviewing areas of high population density in the United States, the locations of current Community Health Leaders and the geographic distribution of RWJF grantees, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recognizes a unique opportunity to position the national program office to align the Community Health Leaders Award with the nation’s shifting demographics and to expand the Foundation’s programming in the South, where there are proportionately fewer RWJF grantees compared to other regions of the country. Houston is the nation’s fourth-largest city and home to an array of leadership initiatives and educational institutions, including those that provide training for health professions and careers.

The Houston-based Harris Foundation offers a new, rich network that can help expand the outreach for nominations of new leaders, as well as reach new venues for increasing the visibility of current ones.

In its new location, CHL will have a strategic alliance with the Harris Foundation, which has community-based programs, public and private partnerships and collaborations with numerous colleges and universities throughout the nation.

“The Harris Foundation looks forward to forging a strong strategic partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to support the mission of the Community Health Leaders Award, which honors exceptional men and women working to address health and health care problems facing their communities,” said Bernard Harris, M.D., founder and president of the Harris Foundation.

Founded in 1998, the Harris Foundation (THF) is a 501(c) (3), nonprofit organization. Its mission is to invest in community-based initiatives to support education, health and wealth. THF supports programs that empower individuals—in particular, those who are underrepresented, or economically and/or socially disadvantaged—to recognize their potential and pursue their dreams.


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. For more than 35 years, the Foundation has brought experience, commitment and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. 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.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) established the Community Health Leaders (CHL) Award to recognize individuals who overcome daunting obstacles to improve health and health care in their communities. Today, there are 173 outstanding Community Health Leaders in nearly all states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

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