The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leadership Program

A large philanthropy working at the national level can easily gravitate toward supporting well-established organizations and professionals with impressive credentials. It is crucial, however, to understand that improvements in health and health care come not only from established actors working at the national and state levels but also from people and organizations striving to improve conditions at the community level.

The Foundation's stature may be based largely on its national policy and program activities, but it devotes a significant amount of its resources to supporting local activities. The Local Initiative Funding Partners program, for example, supports efforts devised and carried out by local foundations. Faith in Action, now one of the Foundation's signature programs, supports local interfaith coalitions whose members provide volunteer caregiving to people with chronic health conditions.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leaders Program is another such program. It identifies local leaders working to improve health or health care, celebrates their contribution, and gives their effort a boost with a modest amount of financial support and the imprimatur of the Foundation's name. It is one of the staff's favorite programs because of the immediacy of the leaders' contributions. Many Foundation programs involve bank shots in their effort to bring improvements to society; this one gives a sense of a direct hit.