Federal Policy Recommendations to Advance Health Equity from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

A series of policy briefs include evidence-based recommendations to help people through the immediate health and economic crises and longer-term recommendations to ensure a fair and just opportunity for health.
Two women care for a child.

The pandemic has exposed a stubborn, harsh truth about life in America, and revealed glaring failures in our public policies.

The COVID-19 pandemic has uprooted the lives of everyone living in the United States and around the world, but the most severe health and economic impacts have been concentrated among people of color, those with low and middle incomes, and people who live in places that were already struggling financially before the economic downturn. The pandemic has exposed a stubborn, harsh truth about life in America: People’s ability to live a long and healthy life depends to a significant degree on the color of their skin, how much money they have, and where they live.

This pandemic has also revealed glaring, long-standing structural failures in our public policies. No one should have to choose between paying rent and putting food on the table and protecting the health of themselves, their families, and their communities. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is working to change policies and systems so no one has to make that choice.

This policy brief series, Federal Policy Recommendations to Advance Health Equity from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, includes evidence-based recommendations to help people through the immediate health and economic crises and longer-term recommendations to ensure all people in the United States have a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible.  

The first brief in the series, Improving Housing Affordability and Stability to Advance Health Equity, focuses on how millions of families in America—particularly families of color—are denied shelter, security, and access to opportunity. The brief lays out a roadmap for how we 1) ensure people do not lose their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, and 2) build toward transformational change that guarantees housing as a human right and a public good that advances racial and economic equity.

The second brief in the series, Increasing Access to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to Advance Health Equity, focuses on SNAP, the nation’s largest food assistance program which serves as a critical lifeline for millions of families in America who have trouble affording food. It is proven to reduce poverty, improve the economy, lower food security, and improve children’s health and educational attainment. The brief recommends steps policymakers can take to strengthen SNAP during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

The third brief in the series, Increasing Access to Affordable and Comprehensive Health Insurance, focuses on the inability of many people to afford health insurance—particularly people of color or those in low-wage jobs—which has uncovered one of the nation’s clearest vulnerabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a large and growing body of research that demonstrates the positive impact of health insurance coverage on health and mortality. The brief recommends steps policymakers can take to strengthen access to high quality and affordable health care during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

SNAP Supports Health and Boosts the Economy

This brief describes the purpose of SNAP and who it serves, provides details about how the program works, presents research about its impact, and recommends steps policymakers can take to strengthen SNAP during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

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Improving Access to Paid Family Leave to Achieve Health Equity

This brief provides background on federal and state paid family leave policies (PFL), highlights domestic and international research that shows PFL provides a range of benefits, and lays out principles for a universal PFL program.

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