Robert Wood Johnson Foundation makes epic changes in health funding

June 25, 2014 Philly Inquirer

By Rachel Zamzow, Inquirer Staff Writer

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is getting a makeover. It wants new health ideas to go viral. It wants partners in business and government to magnify its impact. And it seeks game-changing ideas from inventors to improve doctor visits and reshape medicine into a “Culture of Health.”

The nation’s largest health philanthrophy has long been focused on discreet health problems such as smoking and obesity. But in a major policy shift publicly discussed Wednesday for the first time, the Princeton-based foundation is seeking to up its game and inspire mass movements.

“We have to make a seismic shift in the way we deal with health, and it has to come from the ground up,” said foundation CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, describing the shift Wednesday at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, Co. “It’s going to require that we build new partnerships, and stand on one another’s shoulders so we can turn small victories into national success. That we help one another by spotlighting and supporting initiatives that are working. And by learning from those that are not.”

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And, of course health needs are vast among workers. The New York City-based Vitality Institute is leading a commission to improve worker health by equipping their employers with ideas.

“Focusing more on the workplace is fundamental to promoting a culture of health,” said Derek Yach, Vitality’s executive director.

Its commission encourages CEOs to cover employee health information in annual reports. That emphasizes the “most important source of human capital in the company: the workforce and the health of the workforce,” he said.

The institute also seeks to “harness the power and enthusiasm of companies to do the right thing,” Yach said. CVS Caremark recently announced plans to stop selling tobacco products in some locations. This was met with a rise in the company’s stock, an institute report noted.

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