Near the front door of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation hangs a quilt that tells the stories of several lives—stories of love, spirit, and joy—tragically cut short because of HIV/AIDS.
Every six months for the past 14 years, we have had the privilege of displaying a different section of the AIDS Memorial Quilt at our headquarters, and the profound honor of getting to know these individuals through the moving patchworks created by their loved ones.
Every time a new section arrives, I stop and take it in. I think about the kaleidoscope of people who came together to create the commemoration. And the meaningful mosaic of fabric—a pair of favorite blue jeans, a military uniform, a choir robe, a fluffy childhood blanket—they selected in tribute. Pieced together—ultimately covering the entire National Mall in Washington—the Quilt is a testament to the power of joining forces.
Building a Culture of Health in America, I’ve realized, is much like assembling a quilt. It requires many hands working together. And often, the most unlikely pairings create the most evocative designs.
The Foundation never intended to build the movement toward a Culture of Health alone. And, in the two years since we first shared the vision, it has become increasingly clear how critical it is that we join hands with others in this effort. In fact, it’s imperative.
Why? Because no individual, organization or sector can alter the course of America’s health single-handedly. In January, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins noted that just 20 percent of health outcomes depend on the health care sector. Health is inextricably tied to where we live, learn, work and play. It is shaped by the stability and safety of our housing, the quality of our schools, and the availability of clean, safe, open spaces in our communities.
That is why, now, more than ever, we at RWJF are convinced this movement must be championed not solely by those in the health sector, but also by those who have not historically seen themselves as part of the health arena—sectors such as criminal justice, real estate development, finance and technology; as well as organizations focused on civic engagement, equity and economic prosperity.