Author Archives: Culture of Health Blog Team

About the Culture of Health Blog

Feb 1, 2017, 12:00 PM, Posted by Culture of Health Blog Team

Health and health care occupy a well-deserved place of prominence in the national conversation. Prompted in part by the renewed debate over health reform, we are questioning virtually everything we know, or thought we knew, about our health care system—and our own roles and responsibilities as users of that system.

What we’re seeing is a marked shift away from blithe acquiescence to the status quo, and toward creating a "culture of health."

But what does that mean?

As Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, immediate past president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, put it:

“What we foresee is a vibrant American culture of health:

  • Where good health flourishes across geographic, demographic, and social sectors.
  • Where being healthy and staying healthy is an esteemed social value.
  • And everyone has access to affordable, quality health care.

“In this national culture of health...

  • Individuals, businesses, government, and organizations will foster healthy communities and lifestyles.
  • The economy will be less burdened by excessive and unwarranted health care spending.
  • Individuals will be proactive in making choices that lead to a healthy lifestyle.
  • And efficient and equitable health care will deliver optimal patient outcomes.

It will be a given that...

  • The health of the population guides public and private decision-making.
  • And, Americans will hold public leaders and policy-makers accountable for the community’s health.

At the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we are committed to this vision, and we are in it for the long haul. In this blog, we will regularly share our ideas on how best to realize this vision, and we invite you to take part in the conversation.

One Blog, Many Voices

Jan 12, 2015, 11:00 AM, Posted by Culture of Health Blog Team

We’re changing how we’re doing things here at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. We’re striving to work better together to serve one big, bold goal: to build a Culture of Health in America. One way to get there? Shine a light on the stories across the country that bring this unified vision to life. It’s with this in mind that we will be ceasing publication of the Human Capital, NewPublicHealth and Pioneering Ideas blogs at the end of the month. From that point on, we’ll begin to tell our stories in one place: right here on our Culture of Health blog.

In the meantime, we want to hear from you. We invite you to tell us what kinds of posts you’re looking for in a brief online survey.

Your thoughts and ideas will help make sure we're offering more of the stories you want, and delivering them to you in the ways that meet your needs. We look forward to hearing from you—and thank you for your continued readership!

Data4Health: Live from San Francisco

Nov 20, 2014, 3:47 PM, Posted by Culture of Health Blog Team

Leading national experts discussed using data to build a Culture of Health.

DATE: Thursday, December 4
TIME: 12 p.m.—1:30 p.m. ET/9 a.m.–10:30 a.m. PT


  • Karen DeSalvo, acting assistant secretary for health, US Department of Health and Human Services
  • Andrew Rosenthal, group manager for platform + wellness, Jawbone
  • Gary Wolf, co-founder, Quantified Self Movement
  • Roni Zeiger, CEO, Smart Patients

Blog post by Ivor Horn, MD, Advisory Committee Co-Chair and San Francisco MC

It has truly been a fun experience working with the team at RWJF on the Data for Health Initiative. Since we embarked on this journey at the end of October we have been moving at break neck speed to learn how people throughout the country want to use data to build a Culture of Health. As co-chair of this initiative with Dave Ross, director of the Public Health Informatics Institute, I have had the honor of being a “fly on the wall” during discussions in three amazing cities (Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Des Moines). Each session started with insights from local leaders actively engaged in using data to better understand the communities and populations that they serve. But the power of the meetings has really been the content of the Q&A sessions after the talks. This is when people in the room–the folks with “boots on the ground”–give their input.  


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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.

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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Knight Foundation News Challenge: Looking for a Few Great Data-Leveraging Ideas

Sep 9, 2013, 11:59 AM, Posted by Culture of Health Blog Team

On August 19, we announced a new $100,000 prize as part of the Knight Foundation’s latest News Challenge, which seeks innovative ideas to harness information and data for the health of communities. The RWJF award is for those entrants who combine public health data with other types of population data to improve the health of communities. The Knight Foundation has committed $2 million to the contest as well.

The entries phase opened this week, and, as of this writing, 34 entries have already been submitted! We asked Paul Tarini, senior program officer for the Pioneer Portfolio, and Anne Weiss, senior program officer and team director of the Quality/Equality team, to reflect on the 105 ideas shared during the initial inspiration phase:

Paul commented:

“I liked the idea about linking health and housing data to improve the provision of social services, health services and housing support to people who are homeless. I also liked the vision for CHEER from Miami-Dade County, which is trying to link kids’ education and health data to improve outcomes for children and inform policy. Similarly comes an idea from Virginia to link datasets from the Health Department on birth issues, early childhood health conditions, and maternal health conditions to social service data and educational outcomes.

My question to everyone who submitted ideas during the inspiration phase: Can you actually get the data you’re interested in using? And, how will you make the data actionable?”

Anne adds:

“I have to say that a lot of what I saw wasn’t exactly what I expected. I saw apps and technology that used ONE source of data. There were a number that did combine data, but I couldn’t get a very specific sense of what data they’d combined and how it would be used.

The ones that excited me, if I read them right, were the ones about combining data on grocery store purchasing with primary care data, as well as the idea related to Trenton public transit.These seemed to me to be fresh, to address social determinants of health, and to leverage the power of different types of data. What I especially liked about these is that they have some interested, committed partners at the table who want the project to succeed, and they’ve got at least an early notion of specifics—what they will do and how they’ll do it.”

Be sure to keep an eye on the Knight News Challenge page to see the ideas being submitted—and if YOU have a bright idea you’d like to submit, be sure to do it soon. The challenge closes on Sept. 17; that’s just 11 days away!

Diversity Is a Window: It Lets Light In and Out

Aug 15, 2013, 5:17 PM, Posted by Culture of Health Blog Team

When patients carry racist attitudes into the health care setting along with their illnesses and injuries, how should nurses and other providers of color respond?

While some patient attitudes can be insulting, to say the very least, Angela Amar, PhD, RN, FAAN, says such a patient encounter can also provide a learning opportunity.

In a post on RWJF's Human Capital blog, Amar recalls a particularly challenging incident when she was a new nurse. "I had just entered a patient’s room when he called out from the bathroom to ask his wife who was there," Amar writes. "She replied, 'it’s a lil’ colored girl to see you.'”

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Helping Little Children Face Big Challenges ... Including a Parent in Prison

Jun 14, 2013, 3:17 PM, Posted by Culture of Health Blog Team

Having a parent in jail can lead to poorer health as children transition to adulthood. This "adverse childhood experience" is one of many that kids face growing up in America, but being the child of a prisoner has its own unique challenges.

Just ask Alex. He may be orange, with spiky blue hair, but he understands what close to two million kids go through.

Alex is a Sesame Street character featured in a new video and toolkit as part of the new "Little Children, Big Challenges" series.

A new post on the NewPublicHealth blog explores the issue, and explains how a White House "Champions of Change" event ties in.

Read the blog post

Here in the States or Down Under in Australia, It's "All One Red Cross"

Jun 14, 2013, 2:54 PM, Posted by Culture of Health Blog Team

Flooding, bush fires, and "a few cyclones from time to time."

If you volunteer or work for the Red Cross in Australia, those are the kinds of disasters you can expect to encounter. And it's not like all of that is a walk in the park, but Red Cross workers here in the United States seem to tackle a broader range of emergencies, including tornadoes, hurricanes and fires.

Those are the observations of Susan Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN, senior adviser for nursing with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and board chair of the American Red Cross of Central New Jersey. Hassmiller recently traveled to Australia and, as she usually does when she travels, she dropped in on local chapters.

Writing for the American Red Cross North Jersey Region blog, Hassmiller acknowledges there might be other differences between the Red Cross down under and up here, but there are also many similarities, including the Aussies' well-organized system of health and safety classes, and blood distribution network.

If you ever get the chance to check out the Australian Red Cross, Hassmiller says it's well worth it: "You will truly see that we are all ONE RED CROSS, which is really so reassuring to know that no matter where we go, the services of this wonderful organization are always available."

Read Sue Hassmiller's blog post

Avoid SNAP Judgments

May 22, 2013, 11:41 AM, Posted by Culture of Health Blog Team

Almost 48 million Americans receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—SNAP, for short. This federal entitlement program helps low-income Americans purchase food for their families, and it encourages healthy eating habits.

Writing in the Huffington Post, RWJF Senior Vice President James S. Marks, MD, MPH, says SNAP's benefits to society are clear, in spite of arguments to the contrary. For every dollar spent on federal food aid, he says, benefits generate $1.72 in economic activity. Of course, SNAP principally helps families alleviate hunger, reap critical nutritional benefits, and combat the nationwide obesity epidemic.

Unfortunately, federal lawmakers are considering ways to take a bite out of SNAP. Two million people would lose food assistance, and more than 200,000 children would stop receiving free school meals under a version of the Farm Bill recently passed by the House Agriculture Committee, Marks asserts. A Senate bill would cut less, he adds, but the reduction in benefits and more stringent eligibility requirements would still be substantial, and damaging to the public's health.

"Fortunately, there is still an opportunity for Congress to chart a different course," Marks suggests. "As we strive for a full economic recovery and a healthier nation, supporting SNAP is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do."

Read the blog post

Cobe Williams: Violence Interrupter

Jul 10, 2012, 1:56 PM, Posted by Culture of Health Blog Team

>>EDITOR'S NOTE: On 9/13/2012 CeaseFire changed its name to Cure Violence.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Cure Violence (formerly called CeaseFire), a program that takes a unique public health approach to stopping gun violence in communities, hosted a screening of the award-winning documentary, The Interrupters, in Los Angeles at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the National Association of County and City Health Officials. The screening featured a discussion panel including Ricardo “Cobe” Williams, one of the movie’s lead characters and Cure Violence violence interrupter and national trainer; Sheila Regan, director of hospital partnerships for Cure Violence; and Commissioner Oxiris Barbot of the Baltimore City Health Department, where the Cure Violence model was replicated and found to statistically lower either homicides or nonfatal shootings or both in all four of the historically violent neighborhoods in which it worked. Violence interrupters and outreach workers succeeded at cutting homicides by more than half in the Cherry Hill neighborhood.

Cure Violence pursues a singular, relentless focus on stopping shootings and killings. Maintaining that violence spreads fundamentally like a disease, and that it is possible to interrupt the transmission of violence much like a disease by changing the behaviors and norms that drive violent acts, Cure VIolence employs former gang members and ex-offenders who have the unique credibility with community members to effectively get people to rethink the impulse to resolve disputes using guns.

The program, begun in Chicago in 2000 by epidemiologist Dr. Gary Slutkin and funded in part by RWJF, has spread to other cities where violence is an acute health problem, including Baltimore, Md., Crown Heights, N.Y., Kansas City, Mo., and New Orleans, La. At the recent U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting, New Orleans Mayor Mitchell Landrieu stated, Violence is a deeply rooted problem that can only be dealt with as a public health epidemic. The Cure Violence model is built on an idea that is exactly right. It is one of many tools that we have to use to get to the problem.”

The Interrupters tells the story of three Cure Violence Chicago “violence interrupters” who work to protect communities from the violence in which they themselves once were involved.

NewPublicHealth caught up with Williams before the Los Angeles conference to ask about his experience as a violence interrupter for Cure Violence. “Before you do anything to intervene, you have to build relationships. That’s when community members open up to you,” says Williams, who at age 11 lost his own father to homicide. “We’re trying to stop people from retaliation, which is often the mindset they grew up with; it’s the mindset I grew up with,” Williams says.

Williams says it’s his job to “mediate the conflict, to put out the fire—to change their mindset and their thinking.” By establishing trust in the community, says Williams, “people will call me when they see a problem going on and I’m able to talk to people on both sides to work it out without shooting and killing. Once you build those relationships, it’s the fathers, the grandmothers, the brothers who start calling us to help work it out,” Williams says.

While Chicago has seen a dramatic increase in homicides this year over last year, Williams says many of those killings have not been in the communities where Cure Violence operates.

The message is simple, even if the work isn’t, says Williams: Violence is not acceptable, and to achieve new social norms that don’t accept violence as a commonplace, tolerable means of behavior, it’s important for everyone to get involved and build the community. “I grew up in a community where if I’m mad at you, all my friends are mad at you. That’s how I was raised. I lost a lot of friends to shootings. I wanted to be part of the solution.”

>>Bonus Link: Read a NewPublicHealth interview with Cure Violence founder Gary Slutkin.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.