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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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Can Sports Help Young People Heal From Trauma?

Apr 11, 2016, 11:00 AM, Posted by David S. Cohen

A local Boston organization is using sports to transform the lives of youth suffering from trauma and its emotional aftermath.

 A coach explains a ball game to a group of students.

Sport has the power to change the world...it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. – Nelson Mandela

When I describe the harrowing circumstances of the youth I work with to reporters, philanthropists, family and friends, they can’t believe that I’m describing the lives of young people in America.

Many of these youth have endured deeply traumatic experiences: crime, abuse, incarceration, domestic or community violence, addiction and even sexual exploitation. Often, they don’t want to talk about the issues they’ve faced—or they don’t know how to.

Yet when you put a ball in their hands, they suddenly light up!

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What’s the Connection Between Residential Segregation and Health?

Mar 16, 2016, 7:00 AM, Posted by Donald F. Schwarz

Residential segregation is a fundamental cause of health disparities. We need to take steps that will reduce health risks caused by segregation and lead to more equitable, healthier communities.

Graphic illustration depicting residential segregation from 2016 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps.

For some, perhaps the mere mention of segregation suggests the past, a shameful historic moment we have moved beyond. But the truth is, residential segregation, especially the separation of whites and blacks or Hispanics in the same community, continues to have lasting implications for the well-being of people of color and the health of a community.

In many U.S. counties and cities, neighborhoods with little diversity are the daily reality. When neighborhoods are segregated, so too are schools, public services, jobs and other kinds of opportunities that affect health. We know that in communities where there are more opportunities for everyone, there is better health.

The 2016 County Health Rankings released today provide a chance for every community to take a hard look at whether everyone living there has opportunity for health and well-being. The Rankings look at many interconnected factors that influence community health including education, jobs, smoking, physical inactivity and access to health care. This year, we added a new measure on residential segregation to help communities see where disparities may cluster because some neighborhoods or areas have been cut off from opportunities and investments that fuel good health. 

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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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Wanted: Global Ideas for a Healthier U.S.

Mar 1, 2016, 9:00 AM, Posted by Nicole Bronzan

Throughout its history, the U.S. has enthusiastically adopted some of the best ideas and innovations from other countries. It’s time to do the same for health.

Global Ideas for U.S. Solutions social image. Good ideas have no borders.

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Revitalizing Newark in a Healthy Way

Feb 24, 2016, 10:00 AM, Posted by Catherine Arnst

An ambitious collaborative effort is revitalizing a long-struggling city in ways that promote not only economic growth, but health and wellness. 

Skyline of Downtown Newark Arthur Paxton/Wikimedia Commons

“Jobs in Newark, New Jersey are as rare as dinosaurs,” says Barbara LaCue. She should know—the 51-year-old Newark resident was unemployed for more than five years after being laid off in 2008 from a steady factory job. She ended up living in a homeless shelter with her two sons.

Then, last October that dinosaur showed up. It took the form of a 67,000 square foot ShopRite, the first full service supermarket to serve the 25,000 people in the city’s struggling University Heights neighborhood.

ShopRite took over a site that had been vacant since the infamous Newark Riots in 1967. It is in a neighborhood where the poverty rate ranges between 25 and 40 percent, and half the households do not have access to a car. ShopRite is the anchor tenant of Springfield Avenue Market, a planned $91 million dollar retail and housing development funded in part by The Reinvestment Fund, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

But to Barbara, what matters most are the 350 full and part-time jobs the store created, most of them filled by people from the community. She is a chef at the deli counter, and she sees the job as more than just a living—it is a creative outlet. Barbara makes a mac n’ cheese to die for, and there are few people who can claim to love their job as much as she does hers. “This store is the best. I love this store.”

Her colleague Donald Douglas, also a lifelong Newark resident, works in the produce section. No one in Newark wanted to hire people from the neighborhood before Shoprite came along, says Donald. “Now, this is my supermarket. We all greet people with a smile here, because we are part of the community.”

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Four Enduring Life Lessons from a Career in Public Health

Feb 17, 2016, 10:30 AM, Posted by Najaf Ahmad

New York City’s new deputy mayor for health and human services shares how inspirational mentors and rich experiences have cultivated her career.

Herminia Palacio speaks at the RWJF Scholars Forum 2014.

She was abruptly awakened by a phone call at 5:00 in the morning as Hurricane Katrina was ravaging New Orleans. Evacuees were fleeing the devastation and arriving in Houston by the tens of thousands to escape. Herminia Palacio was then the executive director of Houston’s Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services. She had until 11:00 p.m. to figure out how to care for them.

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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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Beyond Seat Belts and Bike Helmets: Policies that Improve Lives

Jan 27, 2016, 9:13 AM, Posted by Alonzo L. Plough

RWJF announces up to $1.5 million in new funding to create the evidence base needed for a new generation of policies that improve health, well-being and equity.

Needed: Research to inform laws and policies that elevate community health and equity.

Some of us remember the bad old days when nobody wore seat belts and babies bounced on their mothers’ laps in the front seats of cars. For others, it’s the stuff of legend. Since the advent of seat belt laws in the late 1980’s, the proportion of people buckling up has skyrocketed from fewer than 15 percent to over 90 percent in many states. The laws required people to change their behavior initially and continuously until buckling up was a habit of mind and a social norm. Accordingly, the number of deaths and serious injuries from car accidents has plummeted by more than half.  Other policies—including minimum wage laws, zoning and urban planning, or childcare regulations and guidelines—have had large effects on improving population health.

At the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), we have witnessed firsthand the impact that policies and laws can have in improving health. With this in mind, RWJF is launching Policy for Action (P4A). This new initiative provides up to $1.5 million in funding (or $250K in individual grants up to two years) for research efforts that identify policies, laws and regulations in the public and private sectors that support building a Culture of Health. Our focus is intentionally wide-ranging. We recognize that policies developed both within health and prevention sectors and beyond—in education, economics, transportation, justice, and housing, for example—can ultimately affect the ability of all Americans to lead healthy lives.

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Helping Mid-Sized Cities Think Big About Health

Jan 13, 2016, 2:00 PM, Posted by Donald Hinkle-Brown

A new initiative will empower mid-sized cities across the U.S. to develop strategies for increasing private and public investments to improve neighborhoods facing the biggest barriers to better health.

Runners along a New Orleans city park

Cincinnati, Ohio. Flint, Michigan. New Orleans, Louisiana. Springfield, Massachusetts. The names of many of America’s mid-sized cities are woven into the fabric of our national consciousness.

Others are less well known: Broken Arrow, Arizona. Pasco, Washington. Taylorsville, Utah.

Famed or not, cities boasting populations of 50,000 to 400,000 are where most Americans live. Mid-sized cities can be great places for a healthy, rewarding life. Many have a strong sense of community and history, with less hustle and bustle and traffic and lower cost of living than big cities.

But even in places where quality of life is generally good, not everyone benefits equally. All together, more people live in poverty in America’s mid-sized cities than in large metro areas. Even the most storied of these cities have neighborhoods facing some of the nation’s deepest challenges. And many such cities have suffered economic depression for decades.

My organization, Reinvestment Fund, works closely with cities to use data to better understand the needs of their most at-risk neighborhoods — and then invest in new initiatives that can revitalize housing, health, transportation, education, and other assets that help communities become stronger and healthier. Now, with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we want to help dozens of mid-sized cities think big about ways they can improve health in their most underserved neighborhoods.

To do that, we’ve launched Invest Health, which is giving 50 mid-sized cities $60,000 each to start to map out the kinds of changes they want to make.

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