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


For centuries, poverty has been linked to ill health. It is not difficult to understand why the poor would have worse health than people with greater economic means. In addition, we now know that even middle-class people generally have poorer health than the most affluent; this may reflect the fact that economic resources shield people from certain kinds of daily stresses which, over time, are particularly damaging to health. Higher income and accumulated or inherited wealth make it easier to buy medical insurance and medical care, nutritious foods, and better child care, and to live in a safe neighborhood with good schools and recreational facilities. Moreover, ill-health can mean lower earnings, creating a cycle between income and health that can continue across lifetimes and generations.


  • United States: Social Factors Affecting Adult Health

    In the United States, health among adults is powerfully linked with social factors such as household income, educational attainment and racial or ethnic group.

  • Across America, Differences in How Long and How Well We Live

    Where we live, work, learn and play dramatically affects our health—for better or for worse. Across America and within every state, there are differences in how long and how well we live. This map and accompanying chart show the highest and lowest life expectancy rates (based on county-level data) found in each state and the District of Columbia.

  • 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

  • Issue Brief: Race and Socioeconomic Factors

    To understand health disparities, it is not enough to consider only race or only socioeconomic factors. Both affect health. This issue brief focuses on disparities in health itself contrasted with the well-documented disparities in health care.


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  • Stories

    Andrea Silva

    At Centura Health at Home in Denver, Andrea Silva resolved a struggle that many new mothers face – returning to work while continuing to provide nutritious breast milk for her baby. Meet Andrea Silva


    Norma Morales

    Sometimes all it takes is one good thing, leading to another, to get on the path to healthier living. At least, that’s how Norma Morales sees it. Meet Norma Morales


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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: Poor Education May Lead to Poor Health

    October 12, 2009

    Adults with a poor education are also likely to have poor health, a growing body of evidence suggests. Study after study has confirmed the link, and now experts are zeroing in on the reasons for it and what can be done. 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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