Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Selects Ten Communities as 2020-2021 RWJF Culture of Health Prize Winners

Celebrated for innovative efforts to create thriving, equitable communities.

    • October 26, 2021
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Princeton, N.J.—Today the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) announced the ten communities chosen to receive the 2020–2021 RWJF Culture of Health Prize. The Prize honors and elevates communities at the forefront of advancing health, opportunity, and equity for all. The 2020–2021 Prize winners are: Addison, Ill.; Alamosa County, Colo.; Chickaloon Native Village; Drew, Miss.; Howard County, Md.; National City, Calif.; Palm Beach County, Fla.; Rocky Mount, N.C.; Thunder Valley Community—Oglala Lakota Nation (Oceti Sakowin Territory); and Worcester, Mass.


“The 2020–2021 RWJF Culture of Health Prize winners are striving to make good health and well-being achievable for all their residents,” said Richard Besser, MD, president and CEO of RWJF. “They understand the clear connection between the opportunity for health and education, jobs, and housing. They are leaning into community-led solutions that break down barriers caused by structural racism and other forms of discrimination.”

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.

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

More about the winners:

Addison, Ill.—Addison, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, is transforming health through cross-sector partnerships and community-led action. Addison fosters a sense of belonging across diverse cultures in its community and resident leadership. As examples: The YES! Program empowers young people to be change agents as they lead tough conversations on issues important to them. Residents and community leaders work hand in hand to bridge gaps to resources through key coalitions and entities such as the Addison Public Library, Addison Resources Connect, Addison Early Childhood Collaborative, and the Workforce Development Committee. Bolstered by its strong manufacturing industry ties, Addison increases pathways to local jobs through training and apprenticeship programs. The community is creating a culture that ensures there’s no unmet need for Addison residents.

Alamosa County, Colo.—Alamosa County prioritizes its policies and resources to ensure all have the opportunity to be healthy, from those who have lived in the county for 15 generations to recent arrivals. Located in the San Luis Valley, Alamosa County harnesses the power of the outdoors benefit all. The City of Alamosa and SLV GO! partnered to double the city’s trail mileage to over 24 miles, making recreation more accessible. SLV GO! promotes the value of spending time outdoors to improve health and wellness. The Rio Grande Farm Park serves a dual purpose: offering regenerative agriculture educational opportunities and providing land access and economic boon for local farmers. Grassroots, nonprofit, and local government leaders collaborate to change policy, such as turning the Healthy Eating, Active Living initiative into official city policy and the SLV Health Access Risk Reduction Project, a comprehensive harm reduction program.

Chickaloon Native Village—Building connections across the larger community has fostered an inclusive culture of health in Nay’dini’aa Na’ Kayax (Chickaloon Native Village) located in its ancestral lands of the Matanuska Watershed within southcentral Alaska. The Tribe made health services at C’eyiits’ Hwnax Life House Community Health Clinic, education at Ya Ne Dah Ah school, and Chickaloon Area Transit System available to all residents in the area, allowing them to share in the Ahtna culture and language. They are asserting their sovereign rights and reclaiming their language and culture through connections across generations, protecting and stewarding the environment that sustains them by restoring Moose Creek and the surrounding area, partnering with organizations to address racism through workshops like the Mat-Su Equity Dialogues, and creating opportunities to reduce trauma for children and strengthen community resilience.

Drew, Miss.—A small rural town, Drew, Miss., is revitalizing its community while honoring its roots. By leaning into resident-led solutions, community leaders and partners have come together to think big about what is possible. They enforced city policies to demolish blighted homes to prepare underutilized land for new, affordable homes. They also built safe gathering places for families to encourage a sense of community. Prioritizing education, the community hosts the YES! Program to help students keep their skills sharp over the summer and provides regular training to youth and adults in civic engagement. Reaching people where they are, diverse community organizations partner to bridge the gap in essential services. Drew is not only changing their community, they are inspiring hope within themselves, the community, and the Delta.

Howard County, Md.—Diversity, equity, and inclusion are vital pieces of the fabric in Howard County, Md., demonstrated in part by its largest city, Columbia, a planned community designed to bring people of all backgrounds together. The community provides grocery-style food banks, mixed-income housing, and equitable funding for public schools to increase opportunity for all residents. Its Complete Streets policy is improving neighborhood walkability and allowing pedestrians, cyclists, and cars to move around safely. The county has seen tremendous population growth during the past 20 years and its data-informed approaches have helped efforts to meet the needs of a growing population, including directing resources to low-income families. From its founding to the present, Howard County is fashioning a place that everyone can call home.

National City, Calif.—National City doesn’t shy away from the complex issues that impact the health of its richly diverse community in southern California; it takes an all-in response to make change happen. Prioritizing environmental justice, the community demanded a separation of polluters away from homes and schools; developed cross-sector collaborations to increase access to nutritious foods; and transformed brownfields into a LEED Certified affordable housing complex and community garden. In National City, the entrepreneurial spirit extends beyond the community’s vibrant local business community to residents actively shaping decisions through multiple leadership academies, coalitions, and youth-led efforts. The removal of citizenship requirements allows even more residents to serve on boards and commissions and influence what happens in the city, prioritizing the well-being of all.

Palm Beach County, Fla.—In Palm Beach County, Florida’s third most populous county, organizational partners are regularly joining forces with local leaders and community residents to create sustainable change within its diverse neighborhoods. Through community-led initiatives like Healthier Together and BeWellPBC, residents are defining local challenges and driving efforts to address mental and physical health and overall well-being. Systems, responsive to resident-led design efforts, have helped to expand equitable access, including: bridging the digital divide; emphasizing trauma-informed care and practices; incorporating community-led grantmaking; and spurring county-wide efforts to dismantle systemic racism. With efforts like Birth to 22, a new generation of advocates have emerged shaping an even brighter future for Palm Beach County.

Rocky Mount, N.C.—Moving with a sense of urgency and possibility, Rocky Mount, N.C. is addressing generations of disinvestment through an array of community wealth-building approaches to expand homeownership, create career pathways through job training, and provide academic enrichment opportunities. Determined to change longstanding power dynamics that impede progress, efforts like the Community Academy allow residents to take center stage as it brings neighbors from 14 resident associations together to shape solutions. The city’s fertile ground for partnerships has led to vibrant downtown development that is dotted with hometown businesses, a new event center, and a renewed sense of possibility for area residents. Through organizations like the Rocky Mount Black Action Committee the community is investing in a new generation of leaders, taking their Culture of Health to the next level.  

Thunder Valley Community, Oglala Lakota Nation (Oceti Sakowin Territory)—Residents in Thunder Valley are leading with tradition and innovation. Lakota Lifeways permeate the community’s efforts—from steeping its education at the Immersion Montessori school in Lakota language and lifeways, to placing well-being at the center of its workforce development strategy. To build a dynamic community where families can heal and thrive for generations, Thunder Valley—planned and shaped by those who call it home—takes a whole community approach through eight interconnected initiatives to ignite a collective transformation. They are constructing a regenerative and sustainable 34-acre community, increasing homeownership by building affordable homes and offering financial literacy classes, nurturing leadership through the WWHY Girls Society and other youth initiatives, and creating a sustainable food system—all in pursuit of its vision of a liberated Lakota nation.

Worcester, Mass.—Described by residents as a “city of neighborhoods,” Worcester, Mass., prides itself on being a diverse and inclusive space where all identities are embraced and welcomed. This of course takes work, including community-led trainings on the principles of anti-racism, and youth-centered programming where young people can build their leadership skills. Prime examples are the Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, where young people are crafting comprehensive solutions to stem violence, and Recreation Worcester where teens serve as mentors to neighborhood children. Local leaders also disrupt paradigms to center well-being, such as providing substance abuse treatment and housing instead of incarceration. In all its work, the city is looking at the root causes of disparities in the community to guide the systemic change it seeks.

Prize Celebration and Learning Event

The Foundation will honor this year’s winners, November 9–10, during a virtual RWJF Culture of Health Prize Celebration and Learning Event. During the event, representatives from the Prize communities will talk through the different ways they are leveraging their strengths and bringing partners together to expand opportunity. The 10 new winners will also connect with their 44 fellow Prize Alumni communities.

Please note: The below highlights will be broadcast live at

2020–2021 RWJF Culture of Health Prize Award Ceremony  (1:15 p.m.–2:30 p.m. ET)

Prize winners will be presented their certificates and offer acceptance remarks.

Prize Winner Conversations (2:45 p.m.–3:30 p.m. ET and 3:45 p.m.–4:30 p.m. ET)

The 2020–2021 Prize winners will discuss how they are cultivating a shared commitment to equity and working to address the full spectrum of factors that influence health and well-being. They will reflect on how they are incorporating the wisdom, voice, experience, and leadership of community residents in their efforts.

Learn more about this year’s winners and see videos, photos, and more at


About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is committed to improving health and health equity in the United States. In partnership with others, we are working to develop a Culture of Health rooted in equity that provides every individual with a fair and just opportunity to thrive, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they have. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook 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

Media Contacts

Melissa Blair

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (609) 627-5937

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The RWJF Culture of Health Prize honors and elevates U.S. communities working at the forefront of advancing health, opportunity, and equity for all.