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 build a Culture of Health in America, 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:

  • Evidence for Action, led by a team at the University of California, San Francisco, will support investigator-initiated research that spans the full range of topics and methodologies needed to build an evidence base for a Culture of Health.
  • Policies for Action, based at Temple University, will specifically explore how policies, laws and regulations in both the public and private sectors can support a Culture of Health. This new project builds on the work and insights of the Temple team’s six years of experience with its Public Health Law Research program, an RWJF grantee.
  • 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 program areas, including childhood obesity, coverage, increasing value of U.S. health care, 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 the programs and research funding opportunities in the coming months.


Haydn Bush (202) 745-5073;
Melissa Blair (609) 627-5937;

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, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at


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