Six Communities Receive the RWJF Culture of Health Prize For Innovative Efforts to Improve Health

    • June 25, 2014

Princeton, N.J.—The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) today announced the six communities chosen as winners of this year’s RWJF Culture of Health Prize. The prize honors the efforts and accomplishments of communities that are beacons of hope and progress for healthier people and families. The six communities are Brownsville, Texas; Buncombe County, North Carolina; Durham County, North Carolina; Spokane County, Washington; Taos Pueblo, New Mexico; and Williamson, West Virginia. The RWJF Culture of Health Prize winners were announced at the Aspen Ideas Festival Spotlight: Health. Learn more about the winners and watch video profiles of each community at

“The RWJF Culture of Health Prize winners are leading some of the nation’s most innovative efforts to build a national Culture of Health,” said Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, RWJF president and CEO. “These communities are inspiring examples of what is possible when all sectors work together so that every resident has the opportunity to live a long and healthy life.”

Selected from more than 250 applicants from across the country, the six RWJF Culture of Health Prize winners show that improving the health of a community requires many approaches:

  • Brownsville, Texas—Brownsville’s proactive approach to making health a priority has resulted in a more vibrant, mobile, and age-friendly community. Initiatives like Tu Salud ¡Sí Cuenta!, a community-wide campaign to address chronic disease prevention that includes mass media, free exercise and nutrition classes, and the support of bilingual community health workers are essential to helping the many uninsured and chronically ill residents to engage in healthy lifestyle changes. The City has implemented a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance and has approved a Complete Streets Resolution, and a Master Hike and Bike Plan. Activities like CycloBia, where thousands of residents walk, run, cycle, and enjoy outdoor activities in traffic-free streets, and The Challenge, a city-wide, friendly weight-loss challenge, have been highly successful to promote active lifestyles and have demonstrated the strength of community partnerships in action.
  • Buncombe County, North Carolina—By creating a broad collaboration of community partners, Buncombe County is on a path to long-term and sustainable change. Focusing on system, policy, and individual behavior change, initiatives include: the Community Navigator Program that helps families access needed health, social, and community services; a partnership between local businesses and civic groups that is creating a safe space for fellowship and community building in the Shiloh neighborhood; and the Family Resource Center that provides food, clothes, and resources to support families in times of need.
  • Durham County, North Carolina—To build a healthier community, Durham County is addressing multiple factors that impact health. Local clinicians offer low-cost treatment to the uninsured while others donate their time to improve access to specialty medical services. The East Durham Children’s Initiative is one of numerous parent, family, and child support programs that promote education among underserved populations, and the Holton Career & Resource Center supports high school graduation by providing alternate educational paths for youth. Smoke-free public places, workplace wellness programs, and a comprehensive bicycle and pedestrian plan have contributed to better health.
  • Spokane County, Washington—Recognizing the powerful impact education has on long-term health, Spokane County has transformed its approach to health improvement by expanding educational opportunities that empower young people. In 2006, the overall graduation rate for Spokane Public Schools (SPS) was less than 60 percent, while Spokane County’s rate was 72.9 percent. County leaders—including school officials, local universities, the business community, and other partners—responded with a series of innovative steps, including skill-building training sessions for young students; a real-time early-warning system to monitor student attendance and grades; and targeted dropout prevention programs designed to be supportive rather than punitive. By 2013, the SPS graduation rate jumped to 79.5 percent, with an even higher rate (81 percent) for Spokane County.
  • Taos Pueblo, New Mexico—Through leadership and self-governance, the Taos Pueblo community draws on its cultural traditions to address modern challenges. Produce grown at the Red Willow Farms pay homage to the community’s agricultural roots and also support economic development. A strong tribal identity is instilled in the Pueblo’s youngest children, as English and Tiwa—the community’s native oral language—are taught side by side as part of the Head Start program. The Pueblo’s Public Health Nursing Department helps to address the health needs of the tribal community, and the Community Fitness Program offers a variety of fitness classes for residents of all ages.
  • Williamson, West Virginia—In the heart of central Appalachia coal country, Williamson is committed to improving health and expanding economic development through the Williamson Health and Wellness Center (WHWC), the anchor institution of Sustainable Williamson. As a regional Health Innovation HUB, WHWC is actively linking health and entrepreneurship. To ensure at-risk residents have access to healthy foods, a community garden built next to a low-income housing facility offers neighbors an opportunity to grow fruits and vegetables. Williamson’s monthly 5k races and lunch walk program challenge residents to make physical activity part of their everyday life. Community health workers, serving as liaisons between doctors and patients, empower residents to live healthier lifestyles.

The RWJF Culture of Health Prize is awarded annually. Today also launches the Call for Applications for next year’s prize. Learn more at

The RWJF Culture of Health Prize was launched to further the work of the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps (CHR&R) program, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The County Health Rankings & Roadmaps help communities understand the many factors that influence health and identify strategies community leaders can take to improve health. Find out more at


About the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute

The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute is the focal point within the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health to address questions of what it takes to improve health across the population. The Institute advances health and well-being for all by developing and promoting evidence-informed approaches to policy and practice at the local, state, and national levels. The Institute leads the work on the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps and manages the RWJF Culture of Health Prize. For more information, visit

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve the health and health care of all Americans. We are striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all Americans to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at

Media Contacts

Melissa Blair

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (609) 627-5937

2014 President's Message

Building a Culture of Health

At RWJF, building a Culture of Health means working as an ally to make getting healthy and staying healthy a vital part of American culture. It means spotlighting places where the seeds of healthy actions are being planted and working alongside people across the country to turn small victories into a national movement.

Read the annual message