The Media and Change in Health Systems

Since the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation emerged as a national philanthropy a quarter century ago, research has been one of its strategies for helping the nation (albeit indirectly) improve the health and health care of Americans. The logic of the investments in research presumes that more reliable information can be the basis of more informed public debates and decision-making about health care.

However, the Foundation's interest in research has always been an applied one: it is funded to the extent that it advances—even if in the long run—the goals that are the cornerstones of the Foundation's grantmaking. However, for research to have an impact, it must be disseminated.

Traditionally, research findings by grantees have been communicated through articles in peer-reviewed academic journals. Although not deemphasizing the importance of peer-reviewed publications, in recent years the Foundation has recognized the importance of getting information to audiences other than academics and policy experts. This chapter describes one experience with an ambitious effort to communicate research findings to a wider audience. The Local Media Education Project was a program to transmit to journalists the latest research on the changing health care system in their communities and to explain what it meant for their readers.