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Removing Barriers and Creating Opportunities for Young Men of Color

Jan 5, 2016, 10:00 AM, Posted by Maisha Simmons

A new toolkit is here to help us understand how to collectively build a path toward a healthy and productive adulthood for young men of color.

Young men work together to clean up their community.

Trayvon Martin. Manuel Diaz. Rexdale Henry. Michael Brown. Some names may be more familiar to you than others. But all share a common fate of life lost too soon.

What happens when you hear their names? Do you think about the circumstances that prematurely ended their lives? Or do you regret losing the chance to benefit from the great contributions they could have made?

It's clear that young men of color face daunting barriers to health that directly impact their potential to succeed and thrive. Access to a series of supports and conditions specifically designed to address these barriers can dramatically change their life course trajectory. That is why the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation launched our Forward Promise initiative a few years ago.

As part of this work, the big question we are always asking ourselves is what would it look like for every young man of color to grow up in a Culture of Health? We know for example that there would need to be positive school environments, access to role models, job training, support to understand and heal from trauma in their lives, and pathways to college and career, to start.

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Healthier Cafeterias Thanks to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act

Jan 4, 2016, 10:25 AM, Posted by Monica Hobbs Vinluan

Five years ago, the U.S. launched an overhaul of nutrition standards for kids. How far have we come?

Signs of Progress: Florida

Last month marked the fifth anniversary of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. When the law was passed five years ago, our President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey called it “a long-awaited victory.”

After five years, a lot truly has been accomplished. Ninety-seven percent of schools nationwide are meeting healthier standards for school meals. Significantly more schools are now offering lunches with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Putting healthier options on kids’ trays is an essential step, but the big challenge is making sure kids are eating and enjoying the meals. The good news is research shows that more students are taking fruit with their lunch, they’re eating more of their vegetables and entrees, and they generally like the new meals.

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The Most Important Thing We Can Do to Give Kids a Healthy Start in 2016

Dec 29, 2015, 9:00 AM, Posted by Giridhar Mallya, Martha Davis

Supporting parents and families is one of the most critical things we can do to safeguard a healthy future for our nation's kids.

Children raise their hands in a classroom.

We talk a big game, as a nation, about how much we value our kids. After all, “the children are our future,” right?

But here’s the thing: our investments and policies don’t yet line up with this value. Spending on children makes up just 10 percent of the federal budget, and that share is likely to fall. The outcomes are clear: Child well-being in the United States ranks 26 on a list of 29 industrialized nations in a UNICEF report. We must do better!

So here’s our recommendation of the absolute best thing we can do to give kids a healthy start in 2016: support parents and families.

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SHOP: Can it Boost Health Coverage for Small Business Employees?

Dec 14, 2015, 6:04 PM, Posted by Katherine Hempstead

A new report shows that small business owners care about the health insurance coverage they offer their employees, yet the Small Business Health Option Program (SHOP) remains an untapped resource with the potential to help employers find affordable plans.

In 1942, Ken Wilson’s grandfather started Bonnie Brae Conoco, a full-service gas station and neighborhood garage in Denver. Today, Ken is the third generation to manage the business. They’ve offered their employees health insurance since 1970, paying 100 percent of the costs for those who work full-time. Although it’s their largest expense, the Wilsons believe offering coverage is essential. They want to take care of their employees and attract and retain the best people.  

Small businesses, like all businesses, have struggled to keep up with the rising cost of health insurance. But unlike larger companies that can leverage their purchasing power to negotiate lower premiums and more comprehensive benefits, small businesses often have a choice of costlier plans with skimpier benefits. A recent study found small firms are far less likely than larger firms to offer health coverage. In 2012 and 2013, the percentage of small employers offering health insurance was 35 percent, while the percentage of large employers offering insurance was 95.8 percent.  

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has several implications for small businesses. Under the ACA, small business health plans are subject to the marketplace regulations similar to those in the individual market. Depending on the state in which the business is located and the characteristics of the work force, these changes could make premiums change a lot or a little. Many small businesses are still offering pre-ACA plans, and many of them will need to transition to ACA-compliant coverage in 2017.

One new opportunity is the Small Business Health Options Program or SHOP, which is an online marketplace where small business owners with 50 or fewer full-time employees can purchase health insurance for their workers. Features of SHOP attempt to provide flexibility for both employers and employees. Business owners can set their contribution and their employees can choose the plan and benefits they want. Small business owners with 25 or fewer full-time employees can also qualify for a tax credit to put toward the cost of coverage.

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Rebuilding Healthier and More Resilient Communities Together

Dec 7, 2015, 4:01 PM, Posted by Reed Tuckson

Our nation spends billions of dollars to respond to, and rebuild from, disasters, which is why disaster planning must move beyond a narrow focus and create an optimally healthy community.

Trauma and Resilience

It felt like a nightmare to watch the floodwaters rise across New Orleans in August 2005. Yet as the hours turned into days, our nation realized we were watching reality – the reality of a great American city coping with a disaster for which city, state and country had not fully prepared.

The good news is that in the decade since, New Orleans has worked towards a new reality by not just rebuilding what was lost, but by asking how it can rebuild better. In so doing, the city is setting an example for us all.  

Rebuilding better means repairing critical infrastructure (roads, hospitals, businesses, levees), and reforming the organization and interpersonal relationships that are essential to promoting well-being and community engagement. As has been well chronicled, such efforts include fostering neighbor-to-neighbor ties, using data to guide community heath strategic planning, and encouraging multi-sector partnerships between government, business and community organizations. In New Orleans, initiatives such as Fit NOLA and NOLA for Life have united the city’s health department, schools, community-based organizations, and businesses in ways that were unimaginable before the storm.

New Orleans’ efforts align closely with the recommendations of the recently released report, “Healthy, Resilient and Sustainable Communities after Disasters: Strategies, Opportunities, and Planning for Recovery,” intended as a call to action and an action guide. The Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Science was commissioned to produce this report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. I was honored to serve as chair of the committee, which was composed of disaster planning, and health and human service experts. We were tasked with identifying ways in which local and national leaders can work together to mitigate disaster-related health impacts and optimize the use of disaster resources to create communities that are healthier and more resilient.

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Closing Health Gaps: The Oklahoma Example

Dec 7, 2015, 8:00 AM, Posted by Andrea Ducas

With the right data to inform priorities, and a powerful commitment to equity, places like Tulsa, Okla., are making progress to close health gaps.

Adult and child reading a book in the classroom.

What would your ideal future look like? For me and my colleagues at the Foundation, it would be one where everyone has the opportunity to live the healthiest life they can.

An unfortunate reality in this country, however, is that while we continue to realize substantial gains in health, the things that help people become and stay healthy are not evenly distributed across states or even metropolitan areas. Access to healthy foods, opportunities for exercise, good-paying jobs, good schools, and high quality health care services may be readily available in one area, and difficult to come by or nonexistent in another just a few miles away.

Sometimes the differences are particularly stark: In some communities, two children growing up just a short subway or car ride apart could be separated by a 10-year difference in life expectancy.

So how do we square this reality with the Culture of Health we’re working hard with others to build? An important first step is recognizing those disparities and what’s driving them, and ensuring that people in communities across America have strategies – and the data – they can use to proactively close health gaps.

Let’s use Oklahoma, and within it the city of Tulsa, as an example.

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BUILDing Bridges To Better Health Through Partnerships

Dec 1, 2015, 3:30 PM, Posted by Amy Slonim

A new collaboration is helping communities forge partnerships that address the social determinants of health integral to the well-being of individuals and communities.

BUILD Health panel at Colorado Health Symposium BUILD funding partners (from left to right): Chris Denby, The Advisory Board Company; Christopher Smith, Colorado Health Foundation; Chris Kabel, The Kresge Foundation; Amy Slonim, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Brian Castrucci, de Beaumont Foundation; Rachel Keller Eisman, The Advisory Board Company. [Photo credit: Chris Schneider for the Colorado Health Foundation]

“This is about communities owning the solutions to improving health ... this is where the rubber meets the road." That’s how my colleague Brian Castrucci, chief program and strategy officer at the de Beaumont Foundation, described the goals of the BUILD Health Challenge during the fifteenth annual Colorado Health Symposium. Brian and I shared the symposium stage with senior officers from the four foundations and one for-profit firm that, together with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), launched the BUILD Health Challenge earlier this year.

Why do communities need to BUILD bridges to improve health? For RWJF, the BUILD Health Challenge embodies the essence of our Foundation’s focus on bridging. As my colleague Paul Kuehnert notes, health care, public health and social services have traditionally operated in siloes. By breaking down these siloes and “bridging” health care with systems that are not traditionally thought of as health-related—such as education, housing and transportation—we can help people get the services they need, when they need them.

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A New Nutrition Research Center Set on Making New Jersey a Healthier State

Nov 23, 2015, 11:39 AM, Posted by Peter Gillies

The New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health is impressive both in size as well as in its plans to help transform New Jersey into a national model for promoting healthier lifestyles for children and families.

Last month, Rutgers University opened the doors to the New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health (IFNH), a new interdisciplinary research hub for scholars, policymakers, students, and parents to advance, educate and promote issues of nutrition and wellness. At the dedication ceremony, I couldn’t help but think of something the great Chicago architect Daniel Burnham once said:

“Make no little plans.”

It’s no surprise that an architect would come to mind as I sat proudly marveling in the atrium of our magnificent new home. The modern, open-concept building is a beautiful addition to the Rutgers campus, designed with nearly 70,000 square feet of research and community space dedicated to making New Jersey a healthier and happier state. It’s also a heartening testament to the support we enjoy from organizations like the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), which calls on all of us to work together to build a Culture of Health, where getting healthy and staying healthy are guiding values.

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New Partners, New Ways of Thinking: Supporting “Change Leadership” to Build a Healthier Nation

Nov 19, 2015, 1:17 PM, Posted by Herminia Palacio

Building a Culture of Health requires supporting and connecting leaders who can drive change by tolerating risk and seeking inspiration through collaboration.

Audience members listen during a presentation.

Building a Culture of Health isn’t easy. It may seem obvious, but think about it: Our nation didn’t develop its current Culture of Unhealth overnight. Reversing it won’t happen quickly, either. As John Lumpkin pointed out recently, paraphrasing Albert Einstein: “You cannot fix problems with the same logic you used in creating them.”

That’s why change leadership is so important.

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Do-It-Yourself Health: How the Maker Movement is Innovating Health Care

Nov 16, 2015, 11:14 AM, Posted by Anna Young

MakerNurse is changing the game for nurses by tapping into their natural problem-solving skills and bringing the spirit of invention, creativity, and innovation into medical settings.

Debra Flynn shows off the prototype of the shower sleeve she designed at the first medical maker space. Debra Flynn shows off the prototype of the shower sleeve she designed at the first medical maker space.

Anyone who has spent time in a hospital knows that—more often than not—nurses are the professionals who catch the little problems with your care: the uncomfortable IV tube, the bandage that doesn’t quite fit, the pill bottle that’s hard to open.

Nurses are natural problem solvers. They cut down bandages to fit preemies. They fashion a plastic cup around an IV site to stop it from snagging clothes. They roll up two hospital blankets and wrap them in tape to make a “cough pillow”—something to clutch against your stomach to ease the pain of laughing or coughing after abdominal surgery. These DIY medical devices are made by nurses every day in hospitals.

Nurses are uniquely positioned to spot such problems. So, why not encourage nurses to continue devising their own solutions, then give them the tools to create them?

With MakerNurse, that’s exactly what we’re doing.

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