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It's Time to Reframe How We Think About Education and Health

May 17, 2016, 10:03 AM, Posted by Kristin Schubert

Kids spend more time at school than anywhere outside their homes, making schools where we have the greatest chance of improving kids' health trajectory through physical, social and emotional development.

A student and her teacher walk down the hallway of the Cleveland Academy of Leadership elementary school.

My sister, Katy, and I grew up in a family of teachers. My mother, my father and my aunt all dedicated themselves to educating, inspiring, encouraging and supporting each student who came through their classrooms. While I chose to go into public health, Katy followed in their footsteps and is a fifth-grade teacher. Many of her students experience challenges at home that no child should have to face. So in order for her students to be engaged in learning, not only does she need to know her lesson plans, she also needs to know whether a student has eaten breakfast that day or is suffering from trauma that’s gone untreated. When a student acts out, she needs to understand what underlying issues are causing them to behave that way. She’s seen first-hand how difficult it is for her students to learn when many of their needs go unaddressed. And every day, I can see how the work we’re each doing in our respective fields intersects.

As the research shows, your education has far-reaching implications for your health. The more educated you are, the more likely you are to live a longer, healthier life. Now, more than ever, having a high school diploma can predict your likelihood of having diabetes, heart conditions or other diseases. And across racial and ethnic groups, life expectancy improves with increasing years of education.

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Why School Nurses Are the Ticket to Healthier Communities

May 11, 2016, 9:37 AM, Posted by Susan Hassmiller

A visit to Mt. Pleasant High School in Wilmington, Delaware, highlights the critical role that school nurses play in fostering healthier kids and communities.

A young girl has her blood pressure tested during health screenings at the ReGenesis Back to School Fair in Spartanburg, SC.

Robin Wallin, DNP, RN, first became concerned about the unmet dental needs of children attending the Alexandria City Public Schools in 2000 when one of the school nurses she supervised participated in a multidisciplinary evaluation for a kindergarten boy named José who could not sit still in class.

Upon examining his mouth, the nurse discovered gaping black holes where teeth should have been. She helped find an oral surgeon willing to treat José—who came from a low-income family without health insurance—free of charge. As it turned out, once José’s teeth were treated he no longer struggled with sitting still in class.

This experience led Wallin—who was then the Health Services Coordinator for the Alexandria City Public Schools in Alexandria, Virginia, and now serves as the director of health services at Parkway Schools in the Greater St. Louis area—to wonder if other kids like José struggled with school due to underlying oral health problems.

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How to Build a More Diverse and Inclusive Nursing Workforce

May 9, 2016, 9:32 AM, Posted by Lucia Alfano

A nurse leader shares how she overcame significant barriers to pursue a successful career and what we can do to help minorities in nursing succeed.

2008-01_Tully_ES_RWJF-13

I became a nurse by accident at a time in my life when I had no direction. My family had moved from Ecuador to Queens, New York when I was a child.

As a teen, there were times when I lived in group homes or even the streets and I felt completely lost. I dropped out of junior high.

When an acquaintance suggested in passing that I enroll in the nursing program at Queensborough Community College, I followed her advice without realizing that nursing would become my calling. I had to overcome obstacles that included lack of family support, finances, and even basic academic skills.

I wanted so badly to be educated, that I persevered through these struggles. I found that I loved everything that had to do with nursing – from what we learned in class, to what we learned in the clinic, to volunteer work in the community.

I believe there are many young people who, like me, would thrive in nursing. But because of their background or existing challenges, they may believe that a career in nursing is not an option. In particular, young students may think that they cannot afford nursing school.  

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Reversing Childhood Obesity with a Novel Approach

Mar 8, 2016, 10:45 AM, Posted by Christina Economos

ChildObesity180 is bringing the best elements of private sector thinking and scientific research in order to improve the health of kids in America. Here's how.

Children playing outside in Claremont, CA. Photo courtesy Tufts University

In 2009 it became clear to me that if our nation were truly serious about reversing the childhood obesity epidemic, a novel approach was required. The numbers remain just too unacceptably high in all groups and troubling disparities persist.

Enter Peter Dolan, Chairman of Tufts University Board of Trustees and former Chief Executive Officer of Bristol-Myers Squibb with a long-time commitment to health.  His background made him a complement to our work at Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.  Along with Dr. Miriam Nelson, a professor of nutrition, we set out to develop a new method of addressing this complex problem, and co-founded ChildObesity180.

We created a collaborative model: bringing together nationally-renowned leaders from academia, nonprofits, business, and government (whom we refer to as Charter Members) to drive change on a national scale and substantially effect 5-to-12-year-olds across the country. We blend scientific rigor with insights from the private sector to develop, implement, evaluate and scale high-impact obesity prevention initiatives. 

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All Children Deserve to Grow Up at a Healthy Weight

Feb 8, 2016, 9:15 AM, Posted by Risa Lavizzo-Mourey

A year since RWJF committed $500 million toward reversing childhood obesity, early signs of progress show us that cross-sector partnerships and access to healthier options are key steps to ensure all children have opportunities to grow up at a healthy weight.

A teacher leads students in outdoor physical activity at Cleminson Elementary School in El Monte, California.

One year ago, I traveled to New York City to announce that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation would commit $500 million toward the goal of helping all children grow up at a healthy weight by 2025, bringing our total investment on this issue to more than $1 billion.

The gym at West Side High was packed and brimming with excitement on announcement day. We cheered early signs of progress in places like Philadelphia, New York City and rural North Carolina, but all of us knew the job wasn’t done. Even in places reporting good news, progress usually wasn’t reaching low income families and communities of color equitably. Everyone agreed we had to push harder, both to accelerate the pace of progress and ensure that its benefits reached all our children.

Now it’s one year later, and I’m pleased to report that the optimism we felt proved justified.

Nationally, research shows that school lunches have improved, and both students and parents support the healthy changes. Physical education is now due for a major upgrade, thanks to new funding sources in the just-passed education law that replaced “No Child Left Behind.”

The latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s NHANES study confirm that we are on the right track. Obesity rates are down five percentage points among our youngest children and are holding steady among other age groups. 

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The Next Phase of the OpenNotes Movement

Feb 2, 2016, 10:49 AM, Posted by Susan Mende

What happens when patients gain access to the notes their doctors and nurses take during a visit? A culture shift with empowered and motivated patients at the center.

Medical professions looking at patient records.

In December I was proud to announce an exciting partnership with three other foundations—the Cambia Health Foundation, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and the Peterson Center on Healthcare—to take a bold step to expand access to clinical notes written by doctors, nurses, and other clinicians to 50 million patients nationwide. The $10 million in new funding to OpenNotes will allow the initiative to dramatically step up its efforts to create a new standard of care and set a new bar for patient-centeredness.

We know that physicians can help their patients become more engaged in their own care, and that this kind of patient activation can lead to improved outcomes and lower health care costs. Of course, that is easier said than done—especially when clinicians are already under pressure to adopt new technologies, implement new models for delivering health care, and make data on the quality of their care publicly available.

Health care innovators are unrelenting in their search for simple, scalable solutions to help both clinicians and consumers—and philanthropists can help put these bright ideas to the test to determine what works. OpenNotes is one such solution.

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What Can Communities Do Now for Health Equity?

Jan 28, 2016, 1:21 PM, Posted by Joe Marx

The Culture of Health Prize communities demonstrate that there's no single formula to address health equity locally, but there are key lessons we can all learn from their success.

2015 RWJF Culture of Health Prize video

Our annual RWJF Culture of Health Prize honors and elevates communities across the United States that are making great strides in their journey toward better health. 

A scan of the 2015 winners reveals something we’ve seen in previous years: There is no single blueprint. Even when solving common problems, these Prize communities innovate in their own ways. Each brings fresh ideas to the forefront and offers a unique perspective on how to holistically address our nation’s most complex health issues. So it makes sense to turn to them to answer the question that is at the heart of our work today: How can communities come together to create places where health can happen – for everyone?

We ask that question a lot and sometimes our answers can be pretty lofty: work together across sectors, think about health broadly, and so on. While all true, communities looking to take action sometimes ask us to, well, be a bit more specific. What can we do tomorrow? Where do we start

Here, we dive in to look at how the 2015 Culture of Health communities approached that Prize-winning question. 

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Measuring What Matters: Introducing a New Action Framework

Nov 11, 2015, 11:30 AM, Posted by Alonzo L. Plough

It's time to change our culture into one that values health everywhere, for everyone. Introducing a new Action Framework and Measures to help us get there.

A Culture of Health is where communities can flourish and individuals thrive.

Our nation is at a critical moment. There is plenty of data that reveals discouraging health trends: We are living shorter, sicker lives. One in five of us live in neighborhoods with high rates of crime, pollution, inadequate housing, lack of jobs, and limited access to nutritious food.

But there is other data that gives us glimpses of an optimistic future. There’s increasing evidence that demonstrates how we can become a healthier, more equitable society. It requires a shared vision, hard work, and the tenacity of many, but we know it is possible.

Starting with a Vision

Last year, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) shared our vision of a country where we strive together to build a Culture of Health and, every person has an equal opportunity to live the healthiest life they can—regardless of where they may live, how much they earn, or the color of their skin.

As my colleagues and I traveled throughout the country, we met many of you and heard your views on an integrated, comprehensive approach to health. You told us that in order to achieve lasting change, the nation cannot continue doing more of the same. Realizing a new vision for a healthy population will require different sectors to come together in innovative ways to solve interconnected problems. 

A First Friday Google+Hangout discussion on "Measuring What Matters in Building a Culture of Health" took place on Friday, November 6

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Open Enrollment: One Step Closer to Coverage for All

Nov 2, 2015, 9:00 AM, Posted by John Lumpkin

Let’s build upon the success of the Affordable Care Act with this year’s open enrollment.

A pediatrician makes a house visit to check on an infant patient.

Open enrollment is here again—the annual opportunity for Americans to find and enroll in a health plan through HealthCare.gov or their state-based health insurance marketplace. In three short years, millions of Americans have gained access to health plans that cover important services like doctor’s visits, prescriptions, hospital stays, preventive care, and more. As a doctor, I’ve seen the difference health coverage can make in the lives of families. Quality, affordable health insurance means new access to care—care that can have a huge impact on health, equity, financial security, and a better quality of life. It moves us closer to a Culture of Health, where people can access care when they’re sick and when they’re well, making prevention the priority.

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Bringing the Technology Revolution to Caregiving

Sep 17, 2015, 10:32 AM, Posted by David Adler

The Atlas of Caregiving is using new methods to uncover the unique challenges and rewards that caregiving presents, from economic, emotional, and mental stressors to the moments of compassion, joy, and intimacy.

An elderly couple, the woman in a wheelchair sitting in front of a large window showing a view of mountains.

We are at a moment in history when technology is allowing us to collect information about ourselves more effectively and reliably than ever before, from the cell phone in our pocket to the Fitbit on our wrist. This technology can help us device wearers—and even the health care providers, researchers and designers we share our data with—track behaviors related to health and figure out how to improve them. But how can this technology be used to help all of us understand and shape the work of family caregivers?

It is widely believed that family caregivers frequently underestimate how long they spend caring for loved ones and the level of stress induced. This is why RWJF is supporting the Atlas of Caregiving project, which will work with 12 families to collect data using technology with the goal of getting a more accurate picture of how caregivers spend their time, and the physical and mental impact of those activities.

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