From Issues to Action

How the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Influences Policy

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) staff members Lori Melichar and Susan B. Hassmiller contributed a chapter to the 2009 book, Nursing Policy Research: Turning Evidence-Based Research Into Health Policy (edited by Geri Dickson and Linda Flynn).

Using historical examples they describe how the Foundation seeks to influence policy at both the governmental and the organizational levels.

RWJF’s role in governmental policy is exemplified by the Foundation’s support in the late 1970s of nurse practitioners as a way to expand primary care. RWJF initiated regional demonstrations to provide an evidence base for policy changes and contributed to a science-based curriculum to train nurse practitioners.

As an example of organizational policy, the authors present the Transforming Care at the Bedside, an RWJF national program that engaged nurses to suggest, test and share innovations to hospital nursing care.

The authors detail elements of the Foundation’s process to influence policy:

  • Identify the problem.
  • Identify promising solutions.
  • Design research and demonstration projects to fill gaps in evidence.
  • Evaluate demonstration projects.
  • Translate and synthesize information for policy-makers.
  • Use strategic communications to improve health policy.
  • Engage strategic partners.
  • Build the capacity of individuals and institutions.

These steps are accomplished through making grants, contributing expertise, and playing the role of convener and connector.