Author Archives: Culture of Health Blog Team

About the Culture of Health Blog

Feb 1, 2017, 12:00 PM, Posted by Culture of Health Blog Team

Health and health care occupy a well-deserved place of prominence in the national conversation. Prompted in part by the renewed debate over health reform, we are questioning virtually everything we know, or thought we knew, about our health care system—and our own roles and responsibilities as users of that system.

What we’re seeing is a marked shift away from blithe acquiescence to the status quo, and toward creating a "culture of health."

But what does that mean?

As Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, immediate past president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, put it:

“What we foresee is a vibrant American culture of health:

  • Where good health flourishes across geographic, demographic, and social sectors.
  • Where being healthy and staying healthy is an esteemed social value.
  • And everyone has access to affordable, quality health care.

“In this national culture of health...

  • Individuals, businesses, government, and organizations will foster healthy communities and lifestyles.
  • The economy will be less burdened by excessive and unwarranted health care spending.
  • Individuals will be proactive in making choices that lead to a healthy lifestyle.
  • And efficient and equitable health care will deliver optimal patient outcomes.

It will be a given that...

  • The health of the population guides public and private decision-making.
  • And, Americans will hold public leaders and policy-makers accountable for the community’s health.

At the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we are committed to this vision, and we are in it for the long haul. In this blog, we will regularly share our ideas on how best to realize this vision, and we invite you to take part in the conversation.

One Blog, Many Voices

Jan 12, 2015, 11:00 AM, Posted by Culture of Health Blog Team

We’re changing how we’re doing things here at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. We’re striving to work better together to serve one big, bold goal: to build a Culture of Health in America. One way to get there? Shine a light on the stories across the country that bring this unified vision to life. It’s with this in mind that we will be ceasing publication of the Human Capital, NewPublicHealth and Pioneering Ideas blogs at the end of the month. From that point on, we’ll begin to tell our stories in one place: right here on our Culture of Health blog.

In the meantime, we want to hear from you. We invite you to tell us what kinds of posts you’re looking for in a brief online survey.

Your thoughts and ideas will help make sure we're offering more of the stories you want, and delivering them to you in the ways that meet your needs. We look forward to hearing from you—and thank you for your continued readership!

Diversity Is a Window: It Lets Light In and Out

Aug 15, 2013, 5:17 PM, Posted by Culture of Health Blog Team

A nurse gives a patient a TB test.

When patients carry racist attitudes into the health care setting along with their illnesses and injuries, how should nurses and other providers of color respond?

While some patient attitudes can be insulting, to say the very least, Angela Amar, PhD, RN, FAAN, says such a patient encounter can also provide a learning opportunity.

In a post on RWJF's Human Capital blog, Amar recalls a particularly challenging incident when she was a new nurse. "I had just entered a patient’s room when he called out from the bathroom to ask his wife who was there," Amar writes. "She replied, 'it’s a lil’ colored girl to see you.'”

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Avoid SNAP Judgments

May 22, 2013, 11:41 AM, Posted by Culture of Health Blog Team

Posters and literatuare about social welfare, food stamps etc on a bulletin board.

Almost 48 million Americans receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—SNAP, for short. This federal entitlement program helps low-income Americans purchase food for their families, and it encourages healthy eating habits.

Writing in the Huffington Post, RWJF Senior Vice President James S. Marks, MD, MPH, says SNAP's benefits to society are clear, in spite of arguments to the contrary. For every dollar spent on federal food aid, he says, benefits generate $1.72 in economic activity. Of course, SNAP principally helps families alleviate hunger, reap critical nutritional benefits, and combat the nationwide obesity epidemic.

Unfortunately, federal lawmakers are considering ways to take a bite out of SNAP. Two million people would lose food assistance, and more than 200,000 children would stop receiving free school meals under a version of the Farm Bill recently passed by the House Agriculture Committee, Marks asserts. A Senate bill would cut less, he adds, but the reduction in benefits and more stringent eligibility requirements would still be substantial, and damaging to the public's health.

"Fortunately, there is still an opportunity for Congress to chart a different course," Marks suggests. "As we strive for a full economic recovery and a healthier nation, supporting SNAP is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do."

Read the blog post

Cobe Williams: Violence Interrupter

Jul 10, 2012, 1:56 PM, Posted by Culture of Health Blog Team

>>EDITOR'S NOTE: On 9/13/2012 CeaseFire changed its name to Cure Violence.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Cure Violence (formerly called CeaseFire), a program that takes a unique public health approach to stopping gun violence in communities, hosted a screening of the award-winning documentary, The Interrupters, in Los Angeles at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the National Association of County and City Health Officials. The screening featured a discussion panel including Ricardo “Cobe” Williams, one of the movie’s lead characters and Cure Violence violence interrupter and national trainer; Sheila Regan, director of hospital partnerships for Cure Violence; and Commissioner Oxiris Barbot of the Baltimore City Health Department, where the Cure Violence model was replicated and found to statistically lower either homicides or nonfatal shootings or both in all four of the historically violent neighborhoods in which it worked. Violence interrupters and outreach workers succeeded at cutting homicides by more than half in the Cherry Hill neighborhood.

Cure Violence pursues a singular, relentless focus on stopping shootings and killings. Maintaining that violence spreads fundamentally like a disease, and that it is possible to interrupt the transmission of violence much like a disease by changing the behaviors and norms that drive violent acts, Cure VIolence employs former gang members and ex-offenders who have the unique credibility with community members to effectively get people to rethink the impulse to resolve disputes using guns.

The program, begun in Chicago in 2000 by epidemiologist Dr. Gary Slutkin and funded in part by RWJF, has spread to other cities where violence is an acute health problem, including Baltimore, Md., Crown Heights, N.Y., Kansas City, Mo., and New Orleans, La. At the recent U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting, New Orleans Mayor Mitchell Landrieu stated, Violence is a deeply rooted problem that can only be dealt with as a public health epidemic. The Cure Violence model is built on an idea that is exactly right. It is one of many tools that we have to use to get to the problem.”

The Interrupters tells the story of three Cure Violence Chicago “violence interrupters” who work to protect communities from the violence in which they themselves once were involved.

NewPublicHealth caught up with Williams before the Los Angeles conference to ask about his experience as a violence interrupter for Cure Violence. “Before you do anything to intervene, you have to build relationships. That’s when community members open up to you,” says Williams, who at age 11 lost his own father to homicide. “We’re trying to stop people from retaliation, which is often the mindset they grew up with; it’s the mindset I grew up with,” Williams says.

Williams says it’s his job to “mediate the conflict, to put out the fire—to change their mindset and their thinking.” By establishing trust in the community, says Williams, “people will call me when they see a problem going on and I’m able to talk to people on both sides to work it out without shooting and killing. Once you build those relationships, it’s the fathers, the grandmothers, the brothers who start calling us to help work it out,” Williams says.

While Chicago has seen a dramatic increase in homicides this year over last year, Williams says many of those killings have not been in the communities where Cure Violence operates.

The message is simple, even if the work isn’t, says Williams: Violence is not acceptable, and to achieve new social norms that don’t accept violence as a commonplace, tolerable means of behavior, it’s important for everyone to get involved and build the community. “I grew up in a community where if I’m mad at you, all my friends are mad at you. That’s how I was raised. I lost a lot of friends to shootings. I wanted to be part of the solution.”

>>Bonus Link: Read a NewPublicHealth interview with Cure Violence founder Gary Slutkin.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.