Now Viewing: Health promotion and disease prevention

Let’s Help Each Other Cope With Stress

Jul 11, 2014, 12:04 PM, Posted by Risa Lavizzo-Mourey

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Just about everybody experiences stress, to a greater or lesser degree. The bad news: Too many of us fall into the "greater" category.

All of that stress has consequences not just for our mental health, but for our overall wellbeing, says Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, Writing in the professional social networking site LinkedIn.

Lavizzo-Mourey cites the results of a recent NPR/RWJF/Harvard School of Public Health poll, which shows:

  • One in four said they experienced a great deal of stress in the previous month.
  • Almost half reported a major stressful event or experience within the past year.
  • Seventy-four percent said stress affected their health.
  • Forty-three percent said that a health concern is a leading cause of their stress.
  • Eighty percent of people in poor health reported that their health problems raised their level of stress.

If we are to make progress in building a Culture of Health, we need to acknowledge the deleterious role of stress in Americans' lives and health—and everybody needs to be at the table.

"This is clearly an area where health care providers, communities, and employers can help," Lavizzo-Mourey writes.

Read Lavizzo-Mourey's blog post on LinkedIn

Carrying the Burden of Stress

Jul 7, 2014, 11:36 AM, Posted by Jeff Meade

Forum at Harvard School of Public Health: The Health Burden of Stress, and What We Can Do About It. Presented in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and NPR. (July 9, 2014)

Nearly half of us suffer through one major stressful event every year, and the weight of that stress can be heavy indeed. Take, for example, trouble at work, problems in a personal relationship, or the death of someone close to you.

At the top of the list: health issues—either yours, or those of a loved one. In fact, a health concern is the leading cause of stress for 43 percent of us. And all of that emotional turmoil can have a ripple effect, extending out into the realm of our overall well-being.

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How Do We Empower Communities to Get Healthy?

Jul 6, 2014, 9:03 PM, Posted by Martin Scaglione

Shoppers at an outside food market in Philadelphia

I’ve been privileged to live in many communities across the nation—16, to be exact. My wife Lisa and I recently moved from Iowa City, a "college town" of 80,000 people, to New York City, a bustling urban region of 23 million. Life from city to city and region to region is different in some ways, yet concerns related to community wellness remain the same.

On any given Saturday throughout the year, one can find dozens of farmers markets in New York City with fresh local produce and other offerings that encourage healthful choices. This is something we expected while living in Iowa, but were pleased to also find in the city. However, despite the fact that both communities benefit from farmers markets, health awareness campaigns and arguably the finest health care providers, both also struggle with obesity and chronic illness. Even within cities well equipped to promote health and provide care, certain individuals and neighborhoods thrive, while others struggle; is this merely a reflection of wealth disparity, or could it have to do with something more?

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This Is Your Brain

Jun 20, 2014, 12:30 AM, Posted by Andrew Harrison

In 1990, RWJF refined its grantmaking goals to three strategies:

  • Assure that Americans of all ages have access to basic health care
  • Improve the way services are organized and provided to people with chronic health conditions, and
  • Promote health and prevent disease by reducing harm caused by substance abuse.

The Foundation had studied the issue of substance abuse for several years. In fact, RWJF’s first venture into this field was Fighting Back, a national program aimed at creating community-based solutions to reducing the use of illegal drugs.

RWJF Trustee James E. Burke played a vital role in helping to craft the Foundation’s grantmaking strategies to reduce substance abuse. In 1989, Burke became chairman of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America (PDFA). That same year, the Foundation issued its first grant to the PDFA, and this support continued through 2009. Today, PDFA operates as the Partnership at Drugfree.org.

During the two decades of RWJF funding, PDFA conducted national media campaigns to educate the public about the dangers of substance abuse. Public Service Announcements (PSA) served as one of its primary methods to curb drug use.

Arguably, PDFA’s most effective and memorable PSA was its 1987 ad called “Frying Pan.” The PSA shows an actor named John Roselius holding an egg in his sparsely furnished apartment. He announces that the egg represents a persons’ brain. He picks up a frying pan, and adds: “This is drugs.” He cracks the egg into the pan. Its contents quickly fry. He then delivers the powerful punch line: “This is your brain on drugs.” The ad concludes with the famous tagline: “Any questions?”

This Is Your Brain on Heroin

RWJF did not provide funding for the “Frying Pan” PSA, but Foundation funds did help produce its memorable 1997 sequel. In this version, actress Rachael Leigh Cook also holds an egg in her hand, once again symbolizing a human brain. The frying pan represents heroin. Cook places the egg on a kitchen counter. And then she declares: “This is what happens to your brain after snorting heroin.” The actress violently smashes the egg, wielding the pan like a cast iron cudgel. As she lifts the pan, the egg drips down over her hand and the pan.

It’s not over yet, as Cook makes all too clear. What follows is harrowing, a long string of violent declarations as she smashes everything in the kitchen—wine glasses, the ceiling lamp, the wall clock ... everything.

“This is what your body goes through! And this is what your family goes through! And your friends! And your money! And your job! And your self-respect! And your future!”

“And,” she adds, “your life.”

And once again, at the end, the chilling and memorable catchphrase: “Any questions?”

To this day, we possess an unusual but much appreciated token of appreciation for our two decades of funding for the PDFA. It’s a replica of the frying pan used in the Partnership’s ads. It’s even framed.

It’s hard to imagine a national Culture of Health that does not take into account the toll that drugs take on Americans every day. And not just the lives of vulnerable people dragged down by drug abuse, but the culture of crime and violence that can also short-circuit the lives and futures of so many young people involved in the sale of drugs. And that’s not to mention the deleterious impact on the health of the surrounding community.

And so that frying pan serves as a constant reminder that the work to improve the lives of so many vulnerable people and to improve and enhance the health of whole neighborhoods is still far from over.

Any questions?

Andrew R. Harrison is the Foundation's historian.

A Culture of Health Vision at TED 2014

Mar 20, 2014, 6:00 PM, Posted by Culture of Health Blog Team

Leigh Rowan adds his culture of health building block at TED 2014. Photo by Bret Hartman. Leigh Rowan adds his culture of health building block at TED 2014. Photo by Bret Hartman.

This week we’re thrilled to bring the conversation about a culture of health to TED, the annual conference dedicated to spreading innovative ideas from all sectors of society. At RWJF we believe that our health involves far more than health care; it also extends to how we work, how we live, our families and our communities. We are passionate about collaborating with others to cultivate a culture of health, where being healthy and staying healthy is valued by our entire society. (Read more about RWJF’s vision for a culture of health.)

To that end, we are bringing our vision to TED. RWJF staffers led a master class at TED earlier in the week about designing and building a culture of health, and we are hosting the RWJF Café, where an interactive display invites people to answer the question, “What does a culture of health mean to you?” We’ve been sharing highlights on Twitter using the #cultureofhealth hashtag, and would love for you to join the conversation, either on Twitter or in the comments on this post.

Here are some of the responses we’ve gotten at TED so far:

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A New Way of Looking at Health

Feb 18, 2014, 3:58 PM, Posted by Andrea Ducas, Thomas Goetz

Putting outbreaks of disease into context “Putting outbreaks of disease into context” via VizHealth.org. The VizHealth site and the associated content are available under GNU Lesser General Public License version 3.0 (LGPL-3.0) and Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States licenses.

It’s not always easy to think in statistics.

While that statement might seem obvious, applying that knowledge when it comes to health and health care is anything but.

Think, for example, about your last visit to the doctor. (Doctors, put on your patient hats and bear with us.) In the first couple of minutes, you (we hope) had your blood pressure, weight, and other vital signs checked. You might have also talked about changes you could make—like exercising more or quitting smoking—and how they might decrease your risk of developing a chronic disease or help you live longer.

As a patient, all of this information is valuable, but it is not often meaningful or actionable: what does a systolic blood pressure of 175 actually mean? Exercising regularly might bring my risk for diabetes down, but by how much? And what does that difference translate to for me?

There are lots of ways to answer these questions, but up until recently there hasn’t been much clarity at all when it comes to how to communicate those answers effectively. That’s why we’re so excited to announce the launch of our newest project, Visualizing Health.

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Wouldn't It Be Great if Athletes Were Health Heroes?

Oct 10, 2013, 10:13 AM, Posted by Kathryn Thomas

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When I see top athletes hawking junk foods and sugary beverages, it makes me want to blow a whistle and call a foul. When men and women who are at the peak of their athletic prowess push products that do nothing to contribute to peak performance, our nation’s kids are getting the wrong messages.

A new study by the Rudd Center on Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University shows that the vast majority of foods and beverages touted by top athletes are unhealthy products, like sports drinks, soft drinks, and fast food. It also reveals that adolescents ages 12 to 17 see the most TV ads for foods endorsed by athletes. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Rudd Foundation funded the study, which appears in the November edition of Pediatrics.

So what effect might this have on kids?

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Ranking the Healthiest Counties for Kids

Jun 13, 2013, 4:43 PM, Posted by Joe Marx

Healthy Eating at School

Let’s say you’re moving your family to a new community.  Could be a job opportunity or life change.  When it comes to health, should you be thinking about the quality of hospital care for your kids?  Or, whether the community you’re going to is a healthy place for kids to grow up and thrive?

Well, both matter, but until recently, the things that lead to better health—and perhaps keep kids from going to the hospital in the first place—have received less attention.  But we are beginning to see a dynamic shift from emphasis on sick care to prevention and wellness.  A good example is this week’s US News & World Report ranking of “America’s 50 Healthiest Counties for Kids”. These are the folks who give us report cards on colleges, hospitals and best places to retire. Released as part of their “Best Children’s Hospitals” annual report, the article emphasizes important factors that lead to better health, or not, in the places where we live and raise our families. Things like how many kids are living in poverty, teen birth rates, infant deaths and injuries.

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