RWJF Awards Eight Communities with RWJF Culture of Health Prize

    • October 28, 2015

Princeton, N.J.—The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) today announced the eight winners of the 2015 RWJF Culture of Health Prize, honored for working to ensure that everyone in their community has the opportunity to live a longer, healthier and more productive life.

Selected from more than 340 applicants, the winning communities are Bridgeport, Connecticut; Bronx, New York; Everett, Massachusetts; Kansas City, Missouri; Lawrence, Massachusetts; Menominee Nation in northeastern Wisconsin; Spartanburg County, South Carolina; and Waaswaaganing Anishinaabeg (Lac du Flambeau Tribe) in northern Wisconsin. The winners will each receive a $25,000 cash prize and the opportunity to inspire other communities and share their successes and lessons learned during their transformational journeys.

Tune in to today at 12pm ET/9am PT for a live webcast of the Prize announcement ceremony.

This year’s RWJF Culture of Health Prize winners are inspiring examples of communities that are weaving health into everything they do,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, RWJF president and CEO. “These eight communities, and our 12 previous winners, are connecting to like-minded people across the country to build a Culture of Health movement fueled by bold ideas, collaboration and solutions so that everyone will have the opportunity and means to live the healthiest life they can.

While all the winners were honored for building a Culture of Health, each developed an approach unique to their communities:

Bridgeport, Connecticut—From the economy to schools to the environment, Bridgeport is finding new ways of doing business. With improved health at the forefront, innovative “green” strategies have revitalized the city and created a healthy and sustainable environment for its residents. A $1 billion investment in “going green” has turned previously neglected properties like Pleasure Beach and Knowlton Park into community assets for everyone to enjoy. Once vacant and industrial brownfield sites now feature new, eco-friendly businesses. The transformation has not only boosted the city’s economy, but is also leading to new schools, housing, parks and other open, green spaces all of which are contributing to an increase in opportunities for better health.

Bronx, New York—In the Bronx, signs of renewal are around every block. Neighborhoods once dominated by vacant buildings and abandoned cars now feature new apartment complexes, community centers and urban gardens. Community groups are reviving the once-neglected Bronx River, creating a system of parks and trails known as the Bronx River Greenway that will provide recreation and education opportunities for residents. Policymakers, health care professionals, nonprofits and individuals across this borough of 1.4 million people have united to revitalize every facet of community life, from jobs and schools to housing and the environment, resulting in significant progress. From 1985 to 2013, life expectancy at birth increased by 9.7 and 6.5 years for Bronx men and women, respectively.

Everett, Massachusetts—In Everett, if all residents are to be healthy, especially its significant immigrant population, racial justice and economic opportunity are essential. When racial profiling concerns emerged, local police held several community meetings to address the issue head on. These conversations led to a department pledge to add more diversity to the force and laid the groundwork for improved community-police relations. The coalition One Everett is making expanded resident access to jobs that pay livable wages a core focus. Their efforts contributed to a successful regional campaign that led to higher base pay for workers at nearby Boston Logan International Airport.

Kansas City, Missouri—Kansas City is creating a safe and healthy environment for all its residents by addressing the upstream issues that impact health. AIM4Peace engages a new type of health worker who hits the streets to interrupt street violence, mentor high risk individuals and foster peace. The city’s Chamber of Commerce is partnering with more than 150 community organizations to improve health, and organizers are working with community members to end predatory lending and raise the minimum wage. Efforts are paying off: over the past decade, life expectancy improved for everyone and the gap between white and African-American residents was reduced from 6.5 years to 5 years.

Lawrence, Massachusetts—A healthy renaissance is taking place in Lawrence, which is turning around a once troubled education system by expanding the school day and making schools a community hub where parents get help for their children and financial and employment guidance for themselves. This family focus has helped to raise the high school graduation rate from 52% in 2011 to 67% last year. In a community where there is a critical need for housing, old textile mills along the Merrimack River are being restored into affordable family homes, and restored bike paths, parks and green spaces are transforming the landscape.

Menominee Nation, Wisconsin—The Menominee Nation is improving health by reclaiming traditional culture and practices and using trauma-specific interventions to foster healing from historical losses. The Menominee Tribal Clinic and the Menominee Indian School District joined together to bring health-related services to schools, including dental care, rooms for reflection, trauma coaching and daily meditation in the classroom. These and other changes are revealing connections in mental and physical health improvements and academic achievement. And they are working—four-year graduation rates increased from less than 60% in 2007 to nearly 99% in 2014.

Spartanburg County, South Carolina—Data-driven decision making, collaborative partnerships and collective impact—that is the Spartanburg County way. When faced with alarming teen pregnancy rates, community partners rallied to provide prevention education and safe and friendly places for teens to receive counseling and contraception. From 2008 to 2014, these efforts led to a 53% decrease in teen births and a 55% decrease in teen births among African-Americans. AccessHealth Spartanburg is connecting low-income residents to medical homes and providing wrap-around case management services that focus on the social determinants of health. These efforts have led to a 42% reduction in hospital costs. And efforts to revitalize the Northside neighborhood have focused on safe and affordable housing, recreation opportunities and financial services for residents and quality education.  

Waaswaaganing Anishinaabeg (Lac du Flambeau Tribe), Wisconsin—The Waaswaaganing Anishinaabeg Tribe is drawing on cultural traditions to strengthen tribal members’ physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. ENVISION, an intergenerational youth empowerment program, uses practices steeped in the Ojibwe language to improve school attendance and redirect at-risk youth. Housing built for individuals recovering from addiction offers restoration and healing instead of incarceration—a pioneering approach among Wisconsin reservations. Paths to better health have flourished with the opening of the Peter Christensen Health Center in late 2009 and a dental clinic—now with nearly 30 chairs—in 2013. Before these doors opened, tribal members had to seek care off-reservation.

Learn more about this year’s winners through a collection of visual content including videos, photos, and more at


About the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute

The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute advances health and well-being for all by developing and evaluating interventions and promoting evidence-based approaches to policy and practice at the local, state, and national levels. The Institute works across the full spectrum of factors that contribute to health. A focal point for health and health care dialogue within the University of Wisconsin-Madison and beyond, and a convener of stakeholders, the Institute promotes an exchange of expertise between those in academia and those in the policy and practice arena. The Institute leads the work on the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps and manages the RWJF Culture of Health Prize.


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