From Idea to Mainstream

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Experience

In the early 1970s, a time when hearses were used to transport sick or injured people to the nearest hospital and getting hold of someone—anyone—who could help in an emergency was a catch-as-catch-can experience, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded one of its first national programs, the Emergency Medical Services Program. It led to the near-universal use of the 911 phone number. To this day, the program offers a model of a foundation-funded program that took off and entered the American mainstream.

The Emergency Medical Services Program was the first, but not the only, example of an idea tested and disseminated by the Foundation that made it into the mainstream. Some ideas were widely replicated and received government funding, thus assuring their continuation. Others became widely accepted and part of the fabric of American society without benefit of legislation.