Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars

Dates of Program: January, 2001 to August 2016

Description: Although the United States spends more for medical care than any other country in the world, it ranks poorly on many indicators of health and well-being. Although experts know that medical care has a limited impact on the health of populations, by far the vast majority of spending on health in the United States goes to medical care, not to population-wide approaches to improving health.

In 2001, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) established the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars® program to build the field of population health by producing leaders who will change the questions asked, the methods used to analyze problems, and the range of solutions offered to improve the health of all Americans. The two-year program for up to 12 scholars includes intensive seminars; scholar-directed research and analysis conducted with the guidance or collaboration of faculty mentors; and focused training in the skills necessary for effective leadership, program implementation, and policy change.

“As the understanding increases that health is a product of the interaction of factors from multiple domains, Health & Society Scholars helps provide evidence that can be important for making policy decisions.”—Pamela Russo, MD, MPH, Senior Program Officer, RWJF

Key Results to Date

  • As of April 2014:

    • 156 scholars have graduated from the program, and 24 scholars are enrolled; in addition one non-graduate who participates in alumni activities.
    • Scholars investigate the connections among biological, behavioral, environmental, economic, and social determinants of health and develop, evaluate, and disseminate knowledge and interventions based upon these determinants.
    • The scholars have broadened their research and career perspectives and choices. They understand the interdisciplinary nature of population health. Many scholars have accepted positions that they would not have chosen had they not participated in the program.
    • Recognition of the field of population health—within the participating universities and more broadly—is growing.
    • The work of Health & Society Scholars faculty and scholars is informing and influencing public policy and public opinion.