The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) applauds the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America for recognizing the importance of prioritizing a greater investment in America’s young children.

As a member association composed largely of teachers, administrators, and other professionals working with or for young children on a daily basis, NAEYC knows that high-quality early childhood education is a lifeline to children and families. For nearly 80 years, our efforts have focused on improving professional practice and working conditions in early childhood education and on building an effective system that makes high-quality care and education accessible to all children and families.

Today only 1 in 6 eligible children receive federal child care assistance; fewer than half of eligible preschool children receive Head Start and fewer than 4% of eligible infants and toddlers receive Early Head Start; many children lack access to state-funded preschool programs; and quality improvement initiatives are limited. Early childhood professionals are seldom well compensated as programs struggle with limited resources to make programs affordable to families. Teachers and caregivers often need additional support to access the education and training that will help them provide the high-quality care and education that all children deserve.

According to Rhian Evans Allvin, NAEYC Executive Director, “We often hear the phrase, ‘Children are our future.’ But in fact, we are our children’s future. Our decisions today influence the quality of their lives tomorrow. That is why NAEYC strongly supports the Commission’s recommendations for stronger quality standards, linked to funding to make high-quality programs available to all young children and families; for helping families who struggle to provide healthy nurturing experiences for their children; and for investing in further research and innovation to extend our knowledge of best practices and make them more widely available. We urge others to join this vital effort.” 

Learn more about NAEYC

Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC)

The Commission’s recommendation to incorporate health into community development activities and investments is a winning approach to both improving health and revitalizing neighborhoods. As a long-time community development
organization, LISC understands that health outcomes are tightly linked to the social and economic conditions that people experience, many of which are determined by the neighborhoods where they live. Our community partners across the country have identified public health as a significant challenge given the lack of fresh food, few opportunities for safe recreation and play, and limited access to primary health care –
all obstacles that contribute to disproportionately high rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other chronic health conditions Community development organizations are well-positioned to mobilize the capital and expertise needed to create the type of
neighborhood-level change and improvements to the built environment that make healthy food, exercise, safe public spaces and quality medical care available and affordable. Through its 33-year track record and robust community engagement platform, LISC’s community development model has generated $109 million for 70 retail food outlets; $105 million for 52 health centers; and $35 million for 276 athletic fields across the hundreds of urban and rural communities we serve.

The Commission’s recommendation to invest in high-quality early childhood
development is an essential strategy for providing the nation’s youngest and most vulnerable children with an early start – preparing them for school and paving the road for a better and healthier life. Many at-risk children spend the majority of their waking hours in early childhood settings, and benefit greatly from nurturing care, healthy meals, and access to an array of other social and human services and family
supports. LISC has spent the last 18 years working to bring this vital resource to underserved neighborhoods where so many children come into the world at high risk for failure. We are proud to have invested $50 million in 185 new early childhood centers that support the healthy development and well-being of more than 20,000 children in more than 65 low-income neighborhoods across the country.

Learn more about LISC

Institute on Urban Health Research and Practice

Northeastern University’s Institute on Urban Health Research and Practice applauds the focused and far-sighted conclusions of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Commission to Build a Healthier America.  Each of the three recommendations is thoughtfully selected so as to have widespread and positive impacts on the long and short term health of Americans.  We particularly applaud the overall approach of broadening the sectors drawn into these efforts, rather than solely relying on traditional health and human services organizations.  The prioritization of a “health-focused approach to health care” comes at a sentinel moment of increasing access to insurance coverage, and will be especially helpful during a time of intensive deliberation over cost and quality.  With the direction recommended by the Commission, prevention and wellness will finally assume their rightful roles as integral, not separate, components of health care.

Learn more about the institute

United Way Worldwide

United Way Worldwide applauds the recommendations of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Commission to Build a Healthier America.  The Commission’s priorities for building a culture of health are aligned with United Way’s focus on education, income and health:  the building blocks of a good quality of life and the pathway to opportunity for all.

The majority of United Way’s network of nearly 1,800 local organizations in 41 countries and territories are working to improve early childhood development.  Whether it is Tucson’s partnership with childcare centers or Atlanta’s commitment to end childhood chronic disease, United Ways are working with communities to build multi-sector partnerships around strategies in early learning, health and health care, parent engagement and family financial stability.  By focusing investments of human and financial resources in the most disadvantaged communities, United Way creates large-scale impact and advances equity.

We stand beside the Commission’s call to action that all sectors -- business, non-profit, and government -- take a stand and participate in making our communities better places to live.  When people and organizations come together around a common vision, common agenda, and common way forward, we can build lasting solutions that lift up everyone.

United Way Worldwide looks forward to supporting the Commission’s recommendations with our network and partners as we work to improve lives and build a culture of health in communities across the country.

Learn more about the United Way

Trust for America's Health

“TFAH fully supports the RWJF Commission to Build a Healthier America’s recommendations to help all Americans live healthier lives by investing in early childhood development, creating healthy communities and engaging a range of partners beyond the healthcare system.

"In 2009, the Commission issued a clarion call to look beyond the traditional healthcare system, which focuses on treating people after they are already sick, to address the range of factors that influence health outside the doctor’s office and to keep Americans healthier in the first place.

"Today’s recommendations reflect the best advice from leading experts in the field for how to most effectively promote a culture of health in the United States, including by:

  • Prioritizing investments in early childhood and getting kids off to a healthy start in life;
  • Rethinking our healthcare system and incentives to improve well care, prevention and support for health as part of our daily lives; and
  • Working across sectors to create healthier communities and making healthier choices easier choices in our workplaces, neighborhoods and schools.

"Translating these recommendations into reality should be facilitated by full implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The ACA created a National Prevention and Health Promotion Council, comprised of 20 federal agencies and offices, which developed a National Prevention Strategy (NPS), a document that offers a blueprint for the kind of cross-sector partnerships – both inside and outside government – that can create a culture of health in America. Indeed, the Commission’s recommendations regarding child development and healthy communities offer specific direction to the Council that could help bring the vision of the NPS to life.

"Also, innovations in the healthcare delivery system, especially those supported through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI), are driving greater attention to population health and creating financial incentives for the health system to achieve the Commission’s recommendation to improve preventive care and services.  CMMI should be encouraged to press forward by testing these innovations and bringing them to scale.

"Everyone wins when we focus on improving health rather than treating people after they get sick. Healthcare costs go down, our neighborhoods are healthier and provide more economic opportunity and people live longer, healthier and happier lives.

"The Commission’s recommendations along with full ACA implementation will get us closer to achieving a culture of health.”

-Jeffrey Levi, PhD, executive director of Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and chair of the Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health

Learn more about TFAH

National Low Income Housing Coalition

The National Low Income Housing Coalition is pleased to support the recommendations of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America. Included in these recommendations, each aimed at improving health now and for generations to come, is a call to prioritize investments in America’s youngest children and to create communities where healthy decisions are possible.

In a nation where more than 76% of extremely poor households pay more than half of their incomes for housing costs, NLIHC joins the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America in seeking healthier communities for all.

Learn more about the National Low Income Housing Coalition

YMCA of the USA

"YMCA of the USA and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation share a vision for improving the health and well-being of all Americans, and we fully support the recommendations announced today by the RWJF Commission to Build a Healthier America. The recommendations by the commission align with much of the Y’s work in youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. For example, we are investing in youth by helping YMCAs adopt Healthy Eating and Physical Activity standards for early child care and afterschool programs. Through our Healthier Communities Initiatives, Ys are helping to revitalize neighborhoods by facilitating policy changes such as adding community gardens and making cities more walkable. Finally, the Y is improving the nation’s health through the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, an innovative lifestyle intervention program that helps adults with prediabetes make behavior changes that dramatically reduces their risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

"The Y looks forward to collaborating with the RWJF Commission on how to best implement these recommendations that will ultimately make our neighbors healthier and strengthen our communities."

Jonathan Lever, vice president for health strategy & innovation, YMCA of the USA

Learn more about the Y

Parents as Teachers

Parents as Teachers (PAT) is excited to see the first recommendation of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America is “prioritizing investments in America’s youngest children.” For more than 30 years, Parents as Teachers has been working with families to help parents be the first and best teachers to their children. Through personal visits, group activities, screenings, and community resource referrals, PAT services make a real difference in the lives of families, helps close the achievement gap, and ensures children are ready and prepared to be successful in school. We firmly believe that investing in our youngest children has the greatest return on investment to families, communities, and the economy. It is the smart and the right thing to do.

-Scott Hippert, President and CEO, Parents as Teachers

Learn more about PAT


The Health Community is a generation ahead of the education sector on how to better use data to improve supports for those they serve.  These recommendations will ensure the sector stays on the cutting edge by finding both the most impactful and creative ways to change lives.  The work of the Commission and the recommendations they have made will help us find new ways to get better results in the social sector as a whole.

Learn more about StriveTogether

Council for a Strong America

All five organizations in the council have endorsed the recommendations.

Mission: Readiness

"The retired admirals and generals of Mission: Readiness are deeply concerned that 75 percent of all young Americans ages 17-24 cannot qualify for military service, primarily because they are too poorly educated, too overweight or have a serious criminal record. Research shows that high-quality preschool programs can help reverse all three of the primary disqualifiers to military service. They can prepare children to start school ready to learn, boost high school graduation rates, deter youth from crime and, by helping children develop healthy early exercise and good nutrition habits, even help reduce childhood obesity.

"A recent study of New Jersey’s preschool program found that by the fourth or fifth grade, those who participated in the program were three-quarters of an academic year ahead in math and two-thirds of an academic year ahead in literacy compared to those who did not. Studies of high quality preschool programs in other states and localities also report benefits such as impressive gains on literacy and reductions in the numbers of children needing special education services or being held back in school.

"These results are reinforced by long-term studies of early childhood programs, such as the Chicago Child-Parent Centers, which have served over 100,000 children. Participants were 29 percent more likely to have graduated from high school by age 20, while children left out of the program were 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime by age 18.

"In addition, obesity is now the leading medical reason why young Americans cannot join the military, with one in four young adults too overweight to enlist. Teaching young children healthier eating and exercise habits can contribute to reversing the obesity epidemic. In New York City, Philadelphia and Mississippi, schools improved the nutritional quality of the food served to children, increased their physical activity, and coached their parents on children’s healthy nutrition and physical activity needs. As a result of these efforts, along with other broader reforms, rates of childhood obesity dropped 5 to 24 percent.

"We must also ensure that children are more active outside of school. Communities with safe and convenient walking and biking routes between schools, homes and parks encourage youth to be more physically active as part of their daily routines.

"We support these recommendations as a vital way to lead more children toward high school graduation. Let's all work together to make sure that our education and child obesity crises do not become a national security crisis."

Retired Air Force Lieutenant General and Mission: Readiness Member Norman J. Seip

Learn more about Mission: Readiness

Shepherding the Next Generation

"Quality preschool experiences go hand-in-hand with parents who provide nurturing, safe homes for young children. These experiences enable children to develop important social skills such as following teachers’ directions and getting along well with other children.

"As evidenced by the impact of the Perry Preschool Program and Chicago Child-Parent Centers – which served more than 100,000 children from mostly low-income families - these abilities support their long-term ability to succeed in school and ultimately help prepare them to be better parents to their own children.  Women who had participated in the Perry Program were five times more likely to be married and living with their husbands by the age of 27. Similar children left out of the Chicago program were 87 percent more likely to be in foster care due to abuse or neglect, and 39 percent more likely to have spent time in jail or prison by age 26 than the children who participated in the program.

"For these reasons and more, we strongly support these recommendations for ensuring more children gain the foundation they need for building strong, stable and healthy families."

Tom Pearce, National Director, Shepherding the Next Generation

Learn more about Shepherding the Next Generation

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids

"The police chiefs, sheriffs and prosecutors of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids make no apologies for incarcerating people who are a threat to public safety, but they know from personal experience that we can’t simply arrest, prosecute and incarcerate our way out of crime problems. We have to implement strategies that keep people from turning to crime in the first place. Education needs to be the focal point of that strategy. Nationwide, 7 out of 10 inmates in state prisons don't have a high school diploma.

"Quality preschool and early childhood programs give kids a foundation for academic success that helps them stay in school and out of the criminal justice system. We also know about the proven impact of voluntary home visiting programs, which help young parents understand their children's health needs, create safer home environments and develop parenting skills that give their kids a healthier foundation for life. Children who participated in the Nurse-Family Partnership program were nearly half as likely to be abused or neglected and children left out of the program were twice as likely to be convicted of a crime by the time they turned 19.

"These programs are also fiscally smart, because quality preschool can return an average economic benefit to society of $15,000 for every child served, while voluntary home visiting can return an average of $13,000 for every child served.

"We’ve got a simple choice. Pay a moderate amount for quality preschool and home visiting programs now or pay guys like us a lot more to lock people up in the years to come."

Natasha O’Dell Archer, National Director, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids

Learn more about Fight Crime: Invest in Kids

America's Edge

"Business leaders have been a leading driver of support for the Strong Start for America’s Children Act because we know that high quality early education is vital for ensuring children start school with a foundation for long-term academic success.

"A report from the business leaders group America’s Edge shows that children who participate in quality preschool benefit. For example, participants in the Perry Preschool program were 44 percent more likely to graduate high school and made 36 percent more in earnings as adults. Participants in the Abecedarian program were four times more likely to have earned a four-year degree by age 30. Participants in the Chicago Child-Parent Centers were 31 percent more likely to hold a skilled job. Investing in early learning programs sets kids on the right path for academic and career success.

"And high-quality preschool does more than just create strong future employees—it also provides a boost to our economy right now. For every $1 that we invest in early care and education, we will generate a total of roughly $2.00 in sales of local goods and services. This outperforms investments in a variety of other economic sectors, such as mining, oil and gas, construction, transportation and utilities.

"These recommendations call for smart investments that will yield proven returns for the sake of children, families and future employers alike."

Tony Shivers, Deputy Director, America’s Edge

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Champions for America’s Future

"As a college football coach, I consider myself fortunate to have players who have the academic foundation to be successful in college. I am not alone.  College coaches nationwide have a vested interest in expanding the pipeline of young adults who are prepared for the rigors of higher education.

"For these reasons and more I am a strong supporter of quality preschool experiences that ensure children start school with a foundation for long-term achievement so they don’t fall behind. Recent studies of preschool programs in several states, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, North Carolina, Michigan and the city program in Boston, Massachusetts found a range of benefits among participating children. For example, participants in the New Jersey program had a lower need for special education, a lower likelihood of being held back a grade, and higher math and literacy skills that persisted well into the elementary school years.

"Children in these programs also develop important social skills, including impulse control and the ability to follow directions and learn the all-important concept of teamwork. When that happens, children are better able to master the increasingly difficult work that leads to high school graduation and readiness for higher education.

"Count me in as a supporter of these recommendations. I know they’ll lead to more high school graduates who play to win in college and in life."

Jeff Kirsch, National Director, Champions for America’s Future

Learn more about Champions for America's Future

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Head Start- Trauma Smart
RWJF Commission