Letter to the Field from Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, RWJF President and CEO

    • February 26, 2014
Risa Lavizzo-Mourey

It's been three weeks now since we first started telling you about our new culture of health vision and it's been great to hear from so many of you voicing your enthusiastic support. Please keep the feedback coming by emailing me at oneminutememo@rwjf.org.

It's taken us quite a while to get to where we are today. Over the past 18 months, we have been immersed in an intense strategic thinking effort. Our journey has led us to some clear convictions about how the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation must work with you to fulfill our mission to improve the health and health care of all Americans. This is a moment that can lead to real progress in improving America's health—and using the culture of health framework can help us get there.

We are well aware that no single institution can create a comprehensive culture of health. Government can't do it alone. Nor can business. And nonprofits and foundations certainly can't either. We are all in this together, and creating this new culture of health will require us all—institutions, individuals and sectors—to think and work differently.

For years we at RWJF have structured our staff around specific program efforts. We have had a health group and a health care group. We have had individual program teams focused on making improvements in the fields of childhood obesity, public health, coverage, quality and equality of care, training leaders, exploring innovative solutions and addressing the special needs of vulnerable populations. Seven separate teams with seven separate strategies. All doing good work, but with the potential to do so much more.

Now we have realized that the most effective way forward is to focus on a common goal—creating a culture of health—and addressing it as "One Foundation." So we have reorganized. We are no longer divided into health and health care groups.  Our new strategy calls for us to closely coordinate all of our efforts in service to achieving the culture of health vision. We will continue to work in many of the key areas we have in the past, sometimes with a somewhat different focus, and always with better peripheral vision, allowing us to see how one team's work can complement and build upon another's. You can read about this in more detail in my recent President's Message.

Understandably, you may have questions—like, who do I talk to if I want to  learn more about the Foundation's new approach, and who is leading specific efforts? Let me take a moment to provide you with the names of people in our key leadership roles:

John Lumpkin leads our work on priorities we believe will accelerate progress toward our culture of health vision. These include the following areas:

Healthy Weight for All Children—In 2007, RWJF announced that it would dedicate $500 million to reversing the childhood obesity epidemic in America. The relentless rise in childhood obesity rates has abated, and in some areas has even decreased. Moving forward, RWJF will stress the importance of achieving a healthy weight for all of our nation's children, especially in poor communities and those of color. (Director: Dwayne Proctor)

Health Care Coverage for All—For decades, RWJF has worked to improve access to affordable, high-quality coverage for all Americans. The Affordable Care Act has created new opportunities for more than 30 million uninsured Americans to acquire coverage. Our objective is to ensure that all who are eligible for coverage know what is available to them and how to make the most of it. (Director: Kathy Hempstead)

Cost, Quality, and Value—RWJF is committed to seeking the highest value for each dollar spent in the public health, population health, and health care systems. This includes reducing wasteful spending and creating a better understanding of how health is influenced by education, housing, transportation, clean air and water, the built environment, public and business policies and other social determinants of health. (Director: Anne Weiss)

21st Century Leadership—RWJF takes great pride in its legacy of identifying leaders with the potential to transform our nation's health and providing them with the support they need to realize their promise. We remain deeply committed to investing in the development of health innovators and are in the process of restructuring and refocusing many of our Human Capital programs to better meet tomorrow's demands for widespread leadership. (Interim Director: Pam Dickson)

The Future of Nursing—RWJF has supported the advancement of the nursing profession for more than 30 years. We continue to address issues such as the nursing shortage, professional development, and expanding the scope of nursing practice with the aim of ensuring that nurses play a key role in helping our nation achieve a culture of health. (Senior Adviser: Susan Hassmiller)

Jim Marks leads our work on critical, longer-term shifts we must help our nation make to achieve a culture of health:

Bridging Health and Health Care—For too long being healthy has been defined as not being sick. But good health extends beyond the walls of medical offices to the places where people live, learn, work and play. RWJF will continue to invest in programs that bridge health and health care, balancing treatment with prevention, community action and individual responsibility. (Director: Paul Kuehnert)

Healthy Places and Practices—To help build public demand for a culture of health, RWJF will identify, support, and spread the word about individual and community actions that promote lifelong health for all Americans. We are committed to finding strong examples of places and practices reflecting a culture of health, and sharing the lessons they have to offer with others so Americans can link forces and build small victories into a national movement. (Interim Directors: Michelle Larkin and Marjorie Paloma)

Disparities in Health—Too many Americans still do not have access to equal choices and opportunities to pursue good health. In the past, RWJF has acknowledged the issue of equal opportunity in all of the programs we support. However, we have come to believe that we must make a more defined commitment to address the causes of unacceptable gaps in opportunity and identify areas that call for immediate attention. (Director: Dwayne Proctor)

Vulnerable Populations—RWJF supports finding innovative and effective ways of addressing the many factors that influence the health of our nation's most vulnerable people. Our work in this area will focus on mental wellness and violence prevention, particularly in early childhood. We cannot call ourselves a healthy nation if we continue to be a violent one. RWJF has chosen to address how health is diminished by all forms of violence—child abuse, bullying, post-traumatic stress, domestic abuse, street violence—and how the cycle can be broken. (Director: Kristin Schubert)

Alonzo Plough leads our Research-Evaluation-Learning unit. This includes our pioneering efforts to learn from innovations. (Director: Lori Melichar)

Robin Hogen leads our Communications efforts.

And David Colby leads our Policy unit.

We know that building a culture of health for all Americans is an audacious concept. It will take time. It will take leadership. And it will take collaboration with you, with business, with policy-makers and with individuals. We want to thank you for joining us on this journey, which we firmly believe will spark a national movement that will:

  • Cultivate a shared vision of a culture of health;
  • Build demand for it among all Americans; and
  • Discover and invest in solutions.

As always, RWJF is committed to realizing this bold transformation through the pursuit of solutions that are evidence-based, measurable, and equitable. If we all devote our best efforts to this common goal, we are convinced that we can and will achieve it.