Children's Health Initiatives

Although improving the health of children has never been an explicit goal of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, its investments in the area have been substantial. In 1999, for example, slightly more than a third of the dollars awarded by the Foundation supported efforts to improve children's health. Given the scale of the Foundation's efforts, it is not surprising that each of the first three volumes of the Anthology included chapters examining specific children's health programs.

In this fourth volume of the Anthology, Sharon Begley, a senior editor at Newsweek, and Ruby Hearn, a senior vice president who has been an active advocate for children's concerns during more than a quarter century at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, have undertaken a comprehensive look at the approaches the Foundation has adopted, and the programs it has supported, to improve children's health and well-being. They begin with some of the Foundation's earliest grants in the 1970s and take us through its latest investments.

Why the long-lived commitment to children? For some, the reasons are economic: investments in children's health can have enduring payoffs, enabling the young to become productive and healthy citizens in the future. For others, it is a matter of fairness: while children as a whole tend to be healthier than people in other age groups, children of minorities and lower-income families and those who live in rural areas and urban slums suffer disproportionately and have limited access to health care services. For many, it is a matter of morality: most of us would find it unconscionable to live in a society that scrimps on the care of its young people and turns the other way when children experience problems that could be avoided with new approaches to care and services.