Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Leadership Programs Launch

More Than 150 Professionals From Many Fields Collaborate to Build Culture of Health

    • September 12, 2016

Princeton, N.J.—The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has selected more than 150 participants across multiple fields and professions to join four new leadership programs designed to help build a Culture of Health in the United States. The intent? Make good health more equitable for all by developing strong leaders who collaborate on innovative solutions to persistent health challenges.

The first group of more than 150 leaders hails from across the nation—from Compton, Calif., to New York, N.Y., representing a diverse range of fields from architecture to transportation to community organizing, and more. Many participants said the opportunity to work with those outside their field and to have an influence beyond their workplace drew them to the program.

“These programs are all about cross-sector collaboration, about disrupting how we define and how we build a comprehensive Culture of Health,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, RWJF president and CEO. “This group of leaders embodies the diversity, tenacity, and inspiration it will take to make good health a reality for all.”

Participants—many working in cross-disciplinary teams—are addressing the most pressing issues in health and equity, such as housing, food systems, and transgender health. They are taking on such community-based projects as needle exchanges, oral health in low-income communities, and the impact of mass incarceration on children’s health. Many leaders are working on issues that are particularly timely and urgent, including the water crisis in Flint, Mich., and community health in Baton Rouge, La.

These leaders will also receive professional coaching, mentoring, networking, and an advanced leadership development curriculum led by top academic and social change leaders in order to develop the skills needed to work across sectors and impact their communities.

Selected through a competitive process that drew many applications, participants receive a stipend to support their participation. Some are eligible for additional funds to support a bold community project. They will continue working or studying full-time in their home communities and apply their new knowledge and leadership in their careers.

The programs include:

Clinical Scholars engages 30 clinically active health care providers to collaborate in teams with fellow clinicians from a wide range of disciplines—including nursing, audiology, pharmacy, and social work. The teams will take on complex problems in their communities, addressing the social factors that underlie health from their perspectives as both health care providers and members of the community. The program is led by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Culture of Health Leaders reaches beyond the traditional realm of health and health care to engage nearly 40 people from any field or profession who want to create a healthier society. The first class represents fields as diverse as architecture, education, urban farming, the arts, and many others, and reaches across private, public, and nonprofit sectors. These leaders will collaborate to address persistent health problems that have eluded those working within a single sector, seeking solutions that can emerge from the wisdom of their own communities. As individuals, they will have an opportunity to step back from their day-to-day work, find new inspiration and advance both their individual leadership skills and their commitment to social change. The program is co-led by the National Collaborative for Health Equity and CommonHealth ACTION.

Health Policy Research Scholars brings together 40 diverse first- and second-year doctoral students from multiple disciplines, including transportation, neuroscience, and environmental health. The program was created intentionally for people who—by race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and other factors—are traditionally underrepresented in doctoral programs and policy development or from disadvantaged backgrounds. Many participants are immigrants, survivors of trauma, or first-generation college students. The intent is to diversify the next generations of leaders and ensure that policies and solutions are inclusive and relevant to the communities they serve. The program is led by Johns Hopkins University.

Interdisciplinary Research Leaders includes 15 teams, each with two researchers and one community leader. Together they will bridge the myriad factors that have an enormous influence on people’s health, e.g., education, neighborhoods, transportation, income, faith. Their work will address health disparities and build fundamentally healthier communities. This year’s teams will work on projects that advance one of two themes: early childhood and health; or housing, community development, and health. The program is led by the University of Minnesota.

The 2017 application period will open in January. The full list of participants is available at


These programs represent a new four-year, multimillion dollar investment by RWJF, and one that continues a long legacy of supporting the development and diversity of leaders. Initially focused on health and health care, the programs have expanded in the past year, in recognition that building a Culture of Health requires the attention and contributions of a wide range of individuals in every field. Five additional leadership programs, grounded in health and health care but also increasingly focused on collaboration across sectors and disciplines, are continuing as well: Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program, New Connections, RWJF Health Policy Fellows, Summer Health Professions Education Program, and State Health Leadership Initiative.


About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are working with others to build a national Culture of Health enabling everyone in America to live longer, healthier lives. 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