Interdisciplinary Working Groups

Health & Society Scholars

Field of Work: Building the field of population health.

Problem Synopsis: Although the United States spends more for medical care than any other country in the world, it ranks poorly on many indicators of health and well-being. Although experts know that medical care has a limited impact on the health of populations, 95 percent of spending on health in the United States between 1994 and 1998 went to medical care, with 5 percent allocated to population-wide approaches to improving health.

Synopsis of the Work: In 2001, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) established the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars® program to build the field of population health by producing leaders who will change the questions asked, the methods used to analyze problems and the range of solutions offered to improve the health of all Americans.

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, including scholars from the fields of medicine; epidemiology; economics; neuroscience; developmental, social and health psychology; demography; and public policy completed 15 pilot projects under an R21 National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) grant (R21 grants encourage exploratory or developmental research projects).

Key Results: The University of California at San Francisco/Berkeley was the first Health & Society Scholars site to establish interdisciplinary working groups in population health. Other sites soon followed suit and established their own interdisciplinary working groups.