Press Release

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts Launch National Initiative to Advance Policies that Promote Health

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Washington, DC - The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and The Pew Charitable Trusts today announced the launch of the Health Impact Project, a national initiative designed to promote the use of health impact assessments (HIAs) as a decision-making tool for policy makers.  HIAs are a flexible, data-driven approach that identify the health consequences of new policies and develop practical strategies to enhance their health benefits and minimize adverse effects. The Health Impact Project, a 4.5-year initiative that is funded by a $7.2 million grant from RWJF to Pew to operate and administer the project, is accepting proposals for up to 15 HIA demonstrations ranging from $25,000 to $150,000.

HIAs are an effective way to incorporate health into the decisions made by sectors that do not traditionally focus on these outcomes—such as transportation, planning, education or housing. This strategy helps people lead healthier lives and creates healthier, safer communities. For example, an HIA for a new road could  measure its impact on air quality, childhood asthma, and injury rates, then address them early in the planning process.

“To help people make healthier choices and stem the rising tide of chronic disease, health needs to be factored into public policy and other decisions that affect and influence how we live, work, learn and play,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “The HIA process can foster a new way of thinking that puts health at the forefront of public policy.”

“The project marks an exciting development in the evolution of our relationship with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation,” said Rebecca Rimel, president and CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts. “This collaboration brings to bear valuable resources to establish health impact assessments as an essential part of the policy development process.”

The Health Impact Project will fund government agencies, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations at the local, state and tribal levels. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis, and grantees will receive training, mentoring and technical assistance from the project and from leading HIA experts.

“When decision makers understand the health implications of a proposed policy, they can make better-informed choices that avoid unintended harm and unexpected costs,” said Aaron Wernham, M.D., director of the Health Impact Project and a leading national HIA expert. “We look forward to raising awareness about HIAs, and to working with many kinds of organizations around the country to help communities use this important tool.”

A growing number of community groups and policymakers in the United States and around the world have begun to use HIAs to address a range of issues, including land use and transportation, housing policies, labor standards, natural resource extraction, education and economic policies.  In San Francisco, an HIA for a new housing development resulted in several measures to protect residents from nearby roadway pollution. In Alaska, an HIA helped resolve a longstanding disagreement between community and government stakeholders and led to widely accepted revisions to oil and gas leasing plans, and several new protections for air quality and human health.

The launch of the Health Impact Project is the beginning of an important collaboration between two of the nation's leading philanthropic organizations working to improve health and to serve the public interest. 

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 35 years, the Foundation has brought experience, commitment and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime.