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Of Force Multipliers and Hot Spotting: RWJF-Supported Initiatives Bring Forth Innovation

May 16, 2012, 4:14 AM, Posted by John R. Lumpkin

John Lumpkin John Lumpkin

Innovation – the process of applying new thinking to old problems – is critical to improving our health care system.

On May 8, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced its first round of Health Care Innovation Award grants to 26 organizations nationwide, including two groundbreaking initiatives that have been supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). Together, Project ECHO and the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers funded through Cooper University Hospital will receive three-year HHS grants totaling more than $11 million to amplify their efforts to improve both the quality and affordability of health care.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius noted that the awards will “provide our most creative minds … with the backing they need to build the strong, effective, affordable health care system of the future.”

In the case of both Project ECHO and the Camden Coalition, these words could not be truer.

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New Evidence Continues to Build the Field of Positive Health

Apr 17, 2012, 4:10 AM, Posted by Paul Tarini

Paul Tarini Paul Tarini

Today, the Psychological Bulletin published research by Julia K. Boehm and Laura Kubzansky from the Harvard School of Public Health suggesting that positive psychological well-being – such as life purpose, positive emotion, life satisfaction, happiness and optimism – can help protect against and slow the progression of heart disease.

Prior research in this area has focused on how risk factors like anxiety and depression are associated with cardiovascular disease. But this study is the first of its kind to consider how a health asset –psychological well-being – plays a role in heart health.

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We Want to Know Your Thoughts About the TEDMED Great Challenges

Apr 10, 2012, 6:34 AM, Posted by Brian C. Quinn

Brian Quinn / RWJF Brian Quinn, RWJF assistant vice president

At the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), our mission is to improve the health and health care of all Americans. Good health and health care are fundamental measures of our success as a nation. That’s why we are pleased to support this year’s TEDMED conference (April 10-13), which brings together leaders from a wide array of medical and non-medical disciplines to explore the future of health and medicine.

In our 40 years, RWJF has learned several lessons that led us to support this year’s TEDMED conference. We’ve learned the importance of working with partners and building on the efforts of others; facilitating collaboration among unlikely allies; resisting the illusion of complete understanding; and being persistent.

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Eight Innovative Ideas to Influence Health Behavior

Apr 4, 2012, 11:30 AM, Posted by Lori Melichar

Lori A. Melichar Lori Melichar

The majority of my work in the Department of Research and Evaluation at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has been predicated on the long-held assumption that if you show people convincingly that doing one thing will create the outcome they desire, you can inspire behavior change. The problem is that when it comes to health, we consistently observe individuals acting in ways guaranteed to produce poor outcomes.

The observation of seemingly “irrational” behavior by economists, psychologists and others led to the development of the field of behavioral economics, which has, in recent years, produced insight to explain some of the perplexing health behaviors we observe in a way that the classical economic theories I learned in graduate school cannot. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation believes these emerging insights have breakthrough potential to help people make better choices for their health. That’s why I’m excited to announce that the Pioneer Portfolio and Donaghue Foundation are now supporting a group of innovative researchers who are testing simple interventions that may have widespread impact on complex problems.

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Life Purpose May Help Reduce Heart Attack Risk

Mar 21, 2012, 10:29 AM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

Evidence continues to emerge that our psyche influences heart health.

In a new study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, researchers working under a Pioneer Portfolio grant found that having a sense of purpose in life may help protect older adults with coronary heart disease from heart attacks. The article, “Purpose in Life and Reduced Risk of Myocardial Infarction among Older U.S. Adults with Coronary Heart Disease: A Two-year Follow-up,” comes from researchers at the University of Michigan and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Researchers surveyed more than 1,500 older adults with coronary heart disease and followed up after two years to investigate the association between the occurrence of a heart attack and the degree to which participants had a sense of purpose in their lives, which is typically conceptualized as a person’s sense of directedness and meaning. The study found a significantly reduced risk of heart attack among participants who reported a higher sense of meaning, regardless of socio-demographic differences. Each unit increase in purpose was associated with a 27 percent reduction in the likelihood of a myocardial infarction.

This finding is notable because adults with coronary heart disease, which is the leading cause of death among Americans, are five to seven times more likely to experience a heart attack. Most research focuses on preventive and risk factors contributing to coronary heart disease, and not on resilience factors that help promote health and longevity. The study flows from our work in Positive Health, an emerging concept that explores whether people have health assets that can be strengthened and lead to a healthier life. In contrast, traditional medicine focuses on health risk factors for disease and treatment if it occurs.

In addition to life purpose, the study investigated the association of other positive and negative psychological factors, including optimism, positive affect, anxiety, cynical hostility, and depression with risk of experiencing a heart attack. The study found that all these factors were significantly associated with myocardial infarction rates, but the sense of meaning in one’s life exhibited a protective effect on cardiovascular health above and beyond the presence of these other factors.

Researchers also noted that when people have a strong feeling of meaning in their lives, their will to live may encourage heart health-promoting behaviors, such as exercising, healthy eating, adhering to medical advice, and abstaining from excessive alcohol consumption or smoking.  

Learn more about our work in Positive Health.