The Potential to Solve Perplexing Health Problems

Nov 8, 2011, 3:49 AM, Posted by

In October, RWJF’s Pioneer portfolio laid down a challenge. Recognizing that good health behaviors often require behavior change, but that making those changes is usually easier said than done, we asked the pioneering world of behavioral economics to come up with solutions—innovative ideas to help people make the “right” decisions for their health.

The results were unbelievable. We’re excited to announce that Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer portfolio received more than 330 responses—a plethora of ideas drawing on behavioral economics to address tough health problems—in reply to our recent call for proposals.

We received applications from a variety of institutions, including universities, business schools, schools of public health, medical schools, clinics, non-profits, and research organizations. Our hope was to discover new interventions and insights that have potential to transform health and health care. In particular, we stated an interest in experiments that test innovative solutions to the challenges of obesity and consumer engagement. More than 50 percent of the applications we received focus on problems involving obesity. Nearly one-third involve consumer engagement. We are eager to dig into these as well as the investigator-initiated topics and invite those with the most pioneering ideas to submit a full proposal later this month.

RWJF’s Pioneer portfolio supports unconventional approaches to difficult problems—visionary solutions that have the potential to change the way we think about health and health care. We are the only RWJF team that accepts unsolicited proposals; however, when we target an area that we think deserves more attention, we are often humbled and excited by the caliber of the results.  I extend my warmest thanks to those scientists, economists, physicians and big thinkers who submitted your pioneering ideas as an answer to this call and to all those in our network who helped spread the word.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.