Newly released: Recommendations from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America. Time to Act: Investing in the Health of Our Children and Communities calls for action on early childhood, healthy communities, and bridging health and health care. Read the report and explore the charts, infographics, and videos at


Characteristics of communities can influence health in many direct and indirect ways. Neighborhoods can be physically hazardous because of air and chemical pollution, traffic, lack of sidewalks and safe places to exercise, and because of crime. Some neighborhoods have no grocery stores selling fresh produce and other healthy foods, but have a high concentration of liquor stores and billboards promoting liquor and smoking. The presence of role models exhibiting healthy – or unhealthy – behaviors can also affect health. Poor neighborhoods have weaker tax bases to support high-quality public schools and community programs for children, which influence health in multiple ways. Neighborhoods lacking public transportation can limit employment opportunities for low-income individuals. Due to racial and ethnic segregation, African Americans and Hispanics are far more likely to live in unhealthy neighborhoods than Whites of similar levels of income and education (See Race and Ethnicity).


  • Beyond Health Care: New Directions to a Healthier America

    This Commission report, Beyond Health Care: New Directions to a Healthier America, describes the Commission's work and provides recommendations for moving forward to ensure all Americans have an opportunity to lead healthier lives.

    See the Report

  • A Short Distance to Large Disparities in Health

    Life span disparities reflect differences in wealth, education and environment across all community residents. The differences are even more dramatic - sometimes double - if you compare black and white residents.

  • Philadelphia: Where You Live Matters

    Where we live dramatically affects our health—for better or for worse. Community attributes—including the availability of safe and healthy housing, access to nutritious food and safe places to exercise—can have a direct impact on our opportunity to lead long and healthy lives.

  • Issue Brief: Housing and Health

    This issue brief examines the many ways in which housing can influence health and discusses promising strategies to improve America’s health by ensuring that all Americans have healthy homes.


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  • Stories

    April Manzanares

    When Wal-Mart rolled out its Personal Sustainability Project in 2006, it presented its employees with a challenge: What’s the one change you would make in your life to make the world a better place? April Manzanares, a Wal-Mart people manager in Broomfield, Colo., knew the answer right away. She wanted to be healthier. Meet April Manzanares


    Claudine Paris

    At 71, Claudine Paris feels like a “rock star” every day she walks through the hallways of James John Elementary School in Portland, Ore., where she volunteers as a literacy tutor. Meet Claudine Paris


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  • Leadership Blog

    A Closing Word from Risa Lavizzo-Mourey on the Commission to Build a Healthier America

    by Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, President and CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
    December 17, 2009

    After a year and a half, two major reports and national events, three regional field hearings, nine issue briefs, two chart books, and more than 50 meetings with leaders from government and the private sector, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America has come to a close. Read More

    Guest Post: Toward the Healthy City

    by Jason Corburn, Associate Professor, Department of City and Regional Planning, University of California, Berkeley
    November 18, 2009

    What makes a city healthy and how would we know when a city is healthy? This question has challenged planners, public health officials and urban residents from Mesopotamia to modern American cities. Read More

    From Congress to the Cafeteria: Healthy Food is a Priority

    by David R. Williams, Ph.D., Staff Director
    November 03, 2009

    The Commission recognized the importance of nutritious food for improving the health of Americans when it released its recommendations in April. It saw communities without any access to grocery stores and fresh produce, school meals for children containing chicken nuggets, pizza and fries, and a country disconnected from the food system it relies on for its nutritional wellbeing. But recently, the tide has begun to turn. Read More

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News and Events

  • U.S. News & World Report: Planning a Move? Look for These 4 Features That Make a Healthy Neighborhood

    October 29, 2009

    Walkability, bike paths, and other qualities may cut odds of developing type 2 diabetes and obesity. Read More

  • Issue Brief: "The Poor Pay More -- Poverty's High Cost to Health"

    October 06, 2009

    New issue brief from Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity describes many of the ways in which being poor is bad for one’s health and points to policies that have the potential for restoring the prospect of good health to the lives of the poor. Read More

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