RWJF Commits $25 Million To Broaden Health Research

Three Programs Will Offer Innovative Research Opportunities

PRINCETON, N.J.—The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) today announced an initial $25 million commitment over the next three years to fund innovative research on policies, laws, system interventions, and community dynamics that improve health and well-being, with emphasis on sectors not typically associated with health, such as transportation and housing.

The research grants will support RWJF’s vision, introduced in 2014, to work with others to build a national Culture of Health, in which everyone has the opportunity to live their healthiest life possible.

“For decades, we have supported a research agenda that supports evidence-based approaches to solve some of the most complex health issues facing America, but we want to go even deeper to address root causes of inequitable health outcomes and possible solutions based in creative collaboration across sectors and disciplines,” said Alonzo Plough, PhD, MPH, chief science officer and vice president of Research, Evaluation and Learning at RWJF. “This funding will support analyses of the impact of innovative programs and policies on overall health and well-being. We will explore topics that extend beyond the traditional understanding of health as just the absence of illness, to a broader understanding of well-being that is influenced by a range of factors affecting communities, the environment, and other social and economic determinants of health.”

Research projects will be solicited that examine the factors necessary to building a Culture of Health by identifying problems and finding evidence for what works. RWJF hopes to identify analytic methods that will help determine if the consequences of specific actions, both interventions and policy changes, actually improve population health, well-being, and equity.

Three expert organizations will lead new research programs:

Systems for Action, at the University of Kentucky, will specifically explore ways to better align and integrate public health delivery and financing systems with health care, social services, and other community systems, incorporating the Kentucky team’s experience running RWJF’s National Coordinating Center for Public Health Services and Systems Research.

RWJF officials said the roughly $25 million in new research funding adds to robust research and evaluation funding available through its current areas of focus, including reducing childhood obesity; expanding access to affordable, high-quality health coverage; and others.

In addition to working with researchers who focus on traditional approaches to health research, RWJF is seeking new relationships with experts in fields not traditionally associated with health and building a broader capacity in population health science.

“To be successful we need to foster partnerships with nontraditional partners whose work can shed light on how fields like transportation, housing, education, the environment, urban planning, and other sectors contribute to building a Culture of Health,” said Plough.

The Evidence for Action program will be the first to begin considering proposals, with an announcement expected next month. Policies for Action and Systems for Action expect to release more information about the programs and research funding opportunities in the coming months.


For more information on how today’s announcement could affect the future of health and health policy research, please contact Haydn Bush at [email protected] or (202) 745-5073.

For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. For more information, Follow the Foundation on Twitter at on Facebook at

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