Foundations dedicated to remedying social ills face a particular challenge: how to communicate to the public the rationale for and results of the programs that they fund. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, like other foundations in the public eye, gets the word out through avenues such as annual reports, newsletters, monographs, news releases, the World Wide Web, and conference presentations.

With the publication of To Improve Health and Health Care, 1997: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Anthology, we are attempting to share information in a new way. In To Improve Health and Health Care, 1997, the people most familiar with a selection of our programs—their evaluators and directors in most cases—discuss the reasons the programs were undertaken, examine what happened as they were implemented, and explore lessons that can be learned from them. Written clearly and, we hope, without jargon, the book is intended to reach not only our traditional audience of public policy professionals but also a wider audience consisting of other foundations’ officers and trustees and members of the public interested in health and health care.

While the authors do not speak for the Foundation, they offer insights about our values—values expressed through the programs we felt were important enough to fund. These values are best captured by the statement of our mission, "to improve the health and health care of all Americans," and by the strategies the Foundation has adopted to fulfill that mission: increasing access to basic health care for Americans of all ages, improving services for people with chronic illnesses, and reducing the harm caused by substance abuse.

Although the chapters selected for this volume present only a sample of the Foundation’s activities, they offer a glimpse of the richness and diversity of our interests. A more complete picture will emerge with the publication of future volumes of the anthology over the coming years.

To Improve Health and Health Care, 1997 opens our philosophical and programmatic books to public scrutiny. It attempts to demystify what the Foundation does and to let the public in on the programs it funds, why it funds them, and what it has learned from its successes and failures. The publication offers the hope that we can learn from the past and not, as philosopher George Santayana feared, be condemned to repeat it.