The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation commends U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius for her leadership in helping to create healthier communities, and we congratulate the communities that are receiving the prevention and wellness grants awarded today as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The grants, a total of more than $370 million given to 44 communities in 31 states across the country, will help support public health efforts to improve nutrition, increase physical activity, prevent obesity and decrease tobacco use—all of which are critical to promoting good health and preventing chronic disease. Twenty-three communities will focus solely on preventing obesity; 14 will work on preventing tobacco use; and seven communities will address both.
This important funding provides further recognition that health begins where we live, learn, work and play, and that the health of a community depends on many factors, including individual behaviors, the quality of health care, education, jobs and the environment.
These grants are being awarded at a time when many communities still face dramatic health challenges. Too many neighborhoods don’t have safe parks and places to be active. Too many lack grocery stores that provide healthy foods at affordable prices. And too many people are still unprotected from secondhand smoke. We all wish support of this kind were available to all of our communities to help them become healthier places for children and families. These grants, though, as well as some of our own community-based prevention programs, are vital efforts to improve America’s health.
We’re encouraged to see many of the grants being awarded to some of the most vulnerable communities in the country. In fact, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is already helping to mobilize action in some of these very same communities—with grants provided through our national program Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities, with state and community advocacy to ensure that all workers are protected from second-hand smoke, and with county-level health data provided through our County Health Rankings initiative to help communities assess their health, set priorities and take action to improve health.
It’s easier to maintain a healthy lifestyle when you live in a healthy community—one that provides healthy, affordable foods and safe places to be active and laws and policies that protect people from the dangers of tobacco exposure. These grants, combined with ongoing efforts by other key public health partners, will help all Americans live the healthy lives they deserve.
Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A.
President and CEO
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation