Welcome to RWJF's Pioneering Ideas podcast—a bi-monthly podcast for people interested in exploring cutting-edge ideas and emerging trends. We seek to inspire new thinking, spark “aha! moments” and cultivate rich, ongoing conversations. Join us each episode as we talk with visionary thinkers in and outside of health care and discover together new ways to build a Culture of Health.

Listen to the Latest Episode

Cutting-Edge Approaches to Helping the Elderly Age in Place (2:24): How can tracking electricity usage help senior citizens age in place—and reduce stress for caregivers? RWJF's Paul Tarini and Dr. Paul Tang of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation talk about innovations coming out of the linkAges Connect program, which RWJF supports.

How Understanding Scarcity Can Help Build a Culture of Health (28:47): Harvard economist and TED speaker Sendhil Mullainathan chats with host Lori Melichar about how the ideas in his book with co-author Eldar Shafir, Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much, apply to transforming health and health care.

Personal Essay: When Life Goes Wrong, Health Goes Wrong (46:41): “We need to formally acknowledge that helping someone survive a divorce is just as important as helping someone with their diabetes,” argues entrepreneur and speaker Alexandra Drane in her personal vision for building a Culture of Health. Read the Burden of Stress report highlighted in this segment.

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Read quote

“We never say, let's evaluate the impact of heating assistance on drug adherence. What would that even mean?"

Sendhil Mullainathan, Harvard School of Economics

Meet The Host

Lori Melichar

Lori Melichar


Lori Melichar, a labor economist, is a director at the Foundation where she focuses on discovering, exploring and learning from cutting-edge ideas with the potential to help create a Culture of Health.

Episode 6

Episode 5


Conspiracy Theories, Microbiomes & More

What can belief in conspiracy theories can tell us about health and health care? Listen to the Foundation’s latest thinking on measuring a Culture of Health. What impact can understanding microbiomes have on building a healthier world? Hear an insightful discussion about the ripple effects of sleep on our mental and physical well-being. Guests include grantee Eric Oliver, RWJF's chief science officer and vice president of research-evaluation-learning Alonzo Plough, microbiome scientist Jessica Green and Harvard economist Sendhil Mullainathan.

Learn more about the people and topics in this episode.

Episode 4


MakerNurse, Visualizing Health Data & More

We explore nurses' bedside innovations, leveraging alternative marketplaces for health, RWJF’s new collaboration Visualizing Health and highlights from the master class conversation at TED 2014. Guests include grantees Kelly Reilly, Roxana Reyna, and Mary Beth Dwyer (MakerNurse), Terry McDonald (St. Vincent de Paul), George Wang (SIRUM), former RWJF entrepreneur in residence Thomas Goetz, designer Tim Leong, University of Michigan's Brian Zikmund-Fisher, game designer Jane McGonigal and IDEO's Tim Brown.

Learn more about the people and topics in this episode.

Episode 3


Empathy, Choice & the Next Generation of Innovators

What can we use social entrepreneurship to impact global health challenges? In this episode we explore entrepreneurship, the science of choosing, and the radical power of empathy. Guests include Swartmore College professor of social theory and social action Barry Schwartz, Columbia University professor of business Sheena Iyengar, Iora Health's Rushika Fernandopulle and Princeton students Azza Cohen and Justin Ziegler.

Learn more about the people and topics in this episode.

Episode 2


Pitch Day, Payment Reform & Behavior Change

How can we best understand how effective behavior change works and how to get the human motivators right in health care? We're also answering questions from listeners and give a sneak peek into RWJF's first-ever Pitch Day. Guests include RWJF's assistant vice president of research-evaluation-learning Brian Quinn, social scientist BJ Fogg, former entrepreneur in residence Thomas Goetz, angel investor Esther Dyson and NPR science correspondent Shankar Vedantam.

Learn more about the people and topics in this episode.

Episode 1


Behavioral Economics, the Science of Placebo Studies & More

What are the pros and cons of making proposals public? Get insight into our funding strategy and explore highlights from the Behavioral Economics Call for Problems. We also cover developing the science of placebo studies and innovating medical practice and research. Guests include RWJF's assistant vice president of research-evaluation-learning Brian Quinn, co-directors of the Foundation's Behavioral Economics Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania Drs. Kevin Volpp and David Asch, grantee and Harvard University professor Ted Kaptchuk and grantee Ben Heywood of PatientsLikeMe.

Learn more about the people and topics in this episode.