Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Awards Five Communities the 2019 RWJF Culture of Health Prize

Celebrated for Impressive Efforts to Create Thriving Communities

    • November 12, 2019
A woman and a class of young children walk on a sidewalk.

Princeton, N.J.—The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation today announced the five communities chosen to receive the 2019 RWJF Culture of Health Prize. The Prize honors and elevates communities at the forefront of advancing health, opportunity, and equity for all. The 2019 Prize winners are: Broward County, Fla.; Gonzales, Calif.; Greenville County, S.C.; Lake County, Colo.; and Sitka, Alaska.   

“The 2019 RWJF Culture of Health Prize winners recognize that health is about more than just healthcare. It’s about what happens where we live, work, learn, and play. They are fundamentally reshaping their communities so that everyone has a fair opportunity for health and well-being,” said Richard Besser, MD, president and CEO of RWJF. “These communities show the nation that solutions are within our grasp when we use local data to identify challenges and work together to implement solutions brought forward by residents.”

Learn more about the 2019 RWJF Culture of Health Prize winners at  

Each winner will receive a $25,000 prize, join a growing network of Prize-winning communities, and have their accomplishments shared broadly to inspire other communities across the nation who are building a Culture of Health.  

Prize communities share a commitment to investing in a broad range of solutions and coordinated steps to usher in lasting change.

This year’s winners are: 

Broward County, Florida: Known as “Collaboration County,” Broward County, Florida—comprised of 31 municipalities—weaves diverse partnerships into their journey toward better health. The commitment to racial equity trainings by health and social service agencies creates a common language around institutional and systemic racism, while school-based equity liaisons ensure students have an opportunity to succeed. Recent voter-approved initiatives expand affordable housing and guarantee $350 million annually for 30 years to improve transportation. Historically excluded populations participate in decision-making thorough initiatives such as the Race Equity in Child Welfare Taskforce and Healthy Community Zones. Through large scale health and economic programs such as Test and Treat for HIV, School Based Dental Sealant, Step Up, and Broward UP, Broward County is addressing the social determinants of health to enable residents to live their healthiest lives. 

Gonzales, California: An agriculturally rich community in central California, Gonzales is a small town with a big vision. Taking advantage of its location, the city is investing in renewable energy, attracting environmentally conscious companies, and strengthening partnerships with existing businesses through its Gonzales Grows Green initiative. Local small businesses are cultivated through a city small business loan program and a voter-approved sales tax measure funds youth enrichment programs. A predominately Hispanic and Latino community, Gonzales is removing language barriers to resident leadership and developing leaders early with pre-kindergarteners voting on a playground to call their own. It continues with the Gonzales Youth Council proposing and guiding city initiatives and residents using city mini-grants for community improvements. Gonzales takes pride in the way people in the community care for one another—calling it The Gonzales Way—and is creating a place where everyone feels at home and can succeed.

Greenville County, South Carolina: A robust understanding of the links between education, housing, transportation, and health anchors efforts in Greenville County, South Carolina. OnTrack Greenville, a school-based early warning data system, is helping keep students on track to graduate high school. When a study found a housing shortage among households making less than $20,000 a year, local leaders created the Greenville Housing Fund to expand affordable housing options and purchased land in gentrifying communities. In Greenville, residents take center stage, as illustrated by their successful advocacy to expand transit hours and routes. Whether it’s removing employment barriers for formerly incarcerated people, rallying behind DREAMers, or supporting the Swamp Rabbit Trail’s expansion into low-income neighborhoods, Greenville County is working to ensure that progress is shared by all and that everyone throughout the community contributes to and benefits from progress.

Lake County, Colorado: Home to the highest incorporated city in the continental United States, Lake County, Colorado is accustomed to seeing different perspectives when addressing community challenges and opportunities. Many voices informed the county’s efforts to honor its mining past, diversify its future, and expand the opportunity to succeed. Catalyzed by cross-sector work on initiatives such as Get Outdoors Leadville! and the Youth Master Plan, the community ensures efforts are governed by collaboration, data, and resident input. Lake County is improving college and career readiness through a dual-enrollment program at a local college, implementing restorative justice in the school system, and supporting homegrown businesses. Through training, leadership opportunities, and inclusive practices such as removing language barriers, the community is making it easier for residents to advocate for themselves in a way that is most meaningful to them.

Sitka, Alaska: Connected by just 14 miles of road, residents in Sitka, Alaska play an active role in building a healthier and more inclusive future together. From the monthly Wooch.een Networking Gatherings to the annual Sitka Health Summit Planning Day, many opportunities exist for people to be heard. The traditions and leadership of the Tlingit, the people indigenous to Sitka, are infused throughout the community, including through culturally responsive education in schools and holiday reclamation. The Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s and State of Alaska’s family reunification efforts is a partnership moving the community forward. The town is investing in the next generation of leaders by fostering entrepreneurship and establishing a youth-led teen center. Sitka runs on renewable, hydro-electric energy from its alpine dam and deeply values the environment that sustains the community. 

Prize Celebration and Learning Event

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will honor this year’s winners today at the RWJF Culture of Health Prize Celebration and Learning Event at its Princeton, New Jersey headquarters. Each Prize-winning community is sending a delegation of six representatives to the event. While in Princeton, the delegations will connect with past Prize winners, national partners, and RWJF staff. 

Highlights include:

2019 RWJF Culture of Health Prize Award Ceremony                
11:00 a.m.–12:15 p.m. ET
Prize winners will be presented their certificates and offer acceptance remarks.
Please note: Event will be broadcast live at

Prize Winner Panel Discussion on Courageous Conversations
1:30–2:30 p.m. ET

The 2019 Prize winners are tackling challenging issues such as racism, poverty, and trauma. Representatives from Prize communities will discuss how they are building understanding among residents by creating the space for frank and open conversations that lead to more inclusive action.
Please note: Event will be broadcast live at

Learn more about this year’s winners and see 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 the RWJF Culture of Health Prize. For more information, visit


About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

For more than 45 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are working alongside others to build a national Culture of Health that provides everyone in America a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being. 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

RWJF Culture of Health Prize

Building a Culture of Health means creating a society that gives every person an opportunity to live the healthiest life possible. The RWJF Culture of Health Prize-winning communities reflect this vision in action.

Learn more about the 2019 winners

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