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Connecting RWJF’s Culture of Health Measures and the Network’s Principles for Building Healthy and Prosperous Communities

Written by Tamara Dubowitz, Carolyn Miller, Margaret Tait, Anita Chandra on June 18, 2018

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Inspiring actions from different sectors that will lead to improvements across communities.

The newly refined and updated Culture of Health Measures are now available here. You may already be familiar with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) vision for building a Culture of Health: enabling all in our diverse society to lead healthier lives, now and for generations to come. Making this a reality requires creativity, innovation, collaboration and action across the constellation of systems that provide services and supports to improve population health, well-being, and equity. The Culture of Health Action Framework was designed to conceptualize and help operationalize this vision. Organized into four Action Areas: 1) making health a shared value; 2) fostering cross-sector collaboration; 3) creating healthier, more equitable communities; 4) strengthening integration of health services and systems, the Framework is broad and seeks to inspire action in communities across the United States. When individuals and organizations work together to advance change across these action areas, we will see progress toward the Culture of Health vision and healthy, prosperous communities.

Students have fun during recess at Buffalo
Hills Elementary school in Kearney, Nebraska.
©2013 Matt Moyer

There are clear overlaps between the Build Healthy Places Network’s Principles for Building Healthy and Prosperous Communities and the Culture of Health Action Framework and Measures. First, improving communities and the lives of people living in them sits at the core of the Culture of Health vision. This cannot be done with silos between community leaders and the community members they serve. Rather, this mission must be completed with a focus on achieving equity and not simply closing gaps or disparities.

Making connections

Within each of the Action Areas, there are national Measures that elevate specific actions necessary for positive change. Measures are clustered into Drivers which focus on the specific mechanisms for improvement, like policies and investments. Many of the Measures and Drivers align directly with the Build Healthy Places Network’s Principles. In the Culture of Health’s  Action Area 1, “making health a shared value,” drivers center around shifting mindsets and expectations, bolstering civic engagement, and fostering a sense of community. For example, the RWJF National Survey of Health Attitudes was developed by RWJF and RAND to provide data for Measures within this Action Area and in 2015 found that 34% of adults believed that one’s surroundings (other people’s behaviors as well as factors like the physical environment, social support and community safety) affected their own health and well-being. The same survey found that 49% of adults felt a strong or moderate sense of membership in their communities. These data shed light on the importance of engaging the community in efforts to promote health, the first of the principles. Not only is it essential to building understanding of what shapes health, but it’s key to bolstering connections among community members.

Teacher Chelsea Roy hangs posters explaining the Leader In Me
program in her classroom for the start of school at Gossler Park
Elementary School in Manchester, N.H. on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016.
©2016 Tracie Van Auken

The principles elevate the importance of economic mobility and prosperity and these directly align with the Drivers and measures included within them in the Action Area focusing on building healthier, more equitable communities. From libraries, to youth safety, and the walkability of our surroundings, neighborhood assets that provide opportunities for residents to make choices rooted in health and wellbeing also have the goal to improve the lives of people residing in them. From the diversity of neighborhoods to the affordability of housing, embedding equity helps clarify that we need to understand the inequities and disparities in order to move toward a more equal, just, and healthy community.

Moving forward together

Both the updated Culture of Health Measures and the Principles for Building Healthy and Prosperous Communities depend on the power of people and their experiences in communities across the United States to move toward a greater understanding of the health and wellbeing of individuals and of populations.  So tell us: does the Culture of Health Action Framework and the Principles for Building Healthy and Prosperous Communities reflect what’s happening in your community?

Cover image photo credit: Zumba Gold class for adults at the San Pablo Community Center. Yannet Lopez (pink shoes) and Nazanin Givechi (white Zumba shirt with black sleeves) lead an intense, high energy class with a wide age range (from the 40s into the 70’s). Yannet Lopez (pink shoes) center foreground. ©2017 Bud Glick

  Tamara Dubowitz, Senior Policy Researcher, RAND Tamara Dubowitz is a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation. Trained in social epidemiology with concentrations in maternal and child health and public health nutrition, Dubowitz's research interests include neighborhood effects, particularly that of the built physical and social environment; obesity and diet-related disease; and the health and nutrition effects of policy (e.g., housing policy, food policy, urban planning) and monitoring and evaluation. Her work has utilized both quantitative and qualitative methods to examine individuals within their social and structural contexts. Carolyn Miller, Senior Program Officer, RWJF Carolyn Miller, a senior program officer in the Research-Evaluation-Learning unit, joined the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) in 2013. She brings to the Foundation a long and diverse career in private sector, government, and academic research. She views her work with RWJF as “an incredible opportunity to be part of guiding and supporting the research efforts of the Foundation as it helps to move our nation toward a Culture of Health.”   Margaret Tait, Research Associate, RWJF Margaret Tait joined the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) in 2014 and serves as a research associate in the Research-Evaluation-Learning (REL) unit. In this role, she supports REL leadership and staff on an array of projects, including the development and implementation of the Culture of Health Action Framework and the Foundation’s Sentinel Community project, as well as leading its work to better disseminate published research that results from grantmaking.   Anita Chandra, Director, Justice, Infrastructure, and Environment, RAND Corporation Anita Chandra is director of RAND Justice, Infrastructure, and Environment. Prior to her position as JIE director, she served as director of RAND's Behavioral and Policy Sciences Department. She leads studies on civic well-being and urban planning; community resilience and long-term disaster recovery; effects of military deployment; health in all policies and advancing a culture of health; and child health and development. Throughout her career, Chandra has engaged government and nongovernmental partners to consider cross-sector solutions for improving community well-being and to build more robust systems and evaluation capacity.