Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
FounderRobert Wood Johnson II
PurposeImproving the health and well-being of all in America
Area served
MethodGrantmaking and social change
Key people
Richard Besser
Disbursements~$500 million annually
Endowment$11 billion

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is the United States' largest philanthropy focused solely on health; it is based in Princeton, New Jersey.[1][2] The foundation's goal, through the use of grants, is "to improve the health and health care of all Americans."[3]

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation makes grants for a range of health issues, including access to care, childhood obesity, and training for doctors and nurses. Other topics of interest to the foundation include social and economic factors that can impact health, including quality of housing, violence, poverty, and access to fresh food.[4]


Robert Wood Johnson II built the family firm of Johnson & Johnson into the world's largest health products maker. He died in 1968. He established the foundation at his death with 10,204,377 shares of the company's stock.[5][6]


The foundation is currently headed by Richard E. Besser, who was named president and CEO in April 2017.[7] Besser succeeded Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, the foundation's president between 2002 and 2017. Lavizzo-Mourey worked to advance its vision of building a Culture of Health,[8] including spearheading efforts to reverse the national childhood obesity epidemic. The foundation committed $1 billion toward eradicating this health problem,[9] dedicating $500 million to the mission in 2007 and another $500 million in 2015.

From 1990 to 2002, Steve Schroeder led the foundation.[citation needed]

Grantmaking areas

These interest areas include:

Childhood Obesity: Backing projects that help reverse the childhood obesity epidemic by improving access to affordable, healthy food and providing more opportunities for children to play and exercise in their schools and communities. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's grants are focused on driving public policy initiatives and changing community environments. These include programs that encourage supermarkets to return to low-income communities and that improve nutrition, physical activity, and staff wellness in schools nationwide. The foundation partnered with The Food Trust, a non-profit in Philadelphia that helps make fresh, affordable food accessible to the underprivileged and educates children about healthy eating.

Healthy Communities: Supporting initiatives that are helping to change conditions in local communities so that residents can reach their greatest health potential. The foundation's grants are focused in investments in housing, transportation, parks and open spaces, disease prevention, life expectancy, and the social, economic, and environmental factors that shape health.

Health Insurance Coverage: Supporting policies and initiatives that expand health care coverage and increase enrollment in programs so that anyone in the U.S. can have affordable health care coverage.

Health Care Cost, Quality, and Value: Promoting efforts to make high quality care available cost effectively. The foundation funds projects that study the relationships between the cost of care and results, develop ways to cut waste in the health care system, and advance research into how people's health is affected by factors such as education, transportation, income, clean air, and public or business policies. For example, in 2009, the foundation donated $2 million to Health Leads, a national health care organization that works with doctors in participating clinics to "prescribe" food, fuel assistance, housing vouchers, or other resources for their patients the same way they might prescribe medication.[10]

Leadership for Better Health: Supporting projects that help health professionals develop leadership skills, encourage networking between different disciplines, and increase the diversity of people working in health care.

Pioneer Portfolio: Making grants to promote approaches to entrenched problems, identify emerging health issues, and build new models for providing care. For example, the foundation gave nearly $5 million to Project ECHO, based at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. ECHO uses online videoconferencing to link primary-care doctors, nurses, and physicians' assistants with specialists to train them to treat and help manage complex conditions, such as hepatitis C and opiate addiction.[11]


  1. ^ "Top 100 US Foundations by Asset Size". Foundation Center. Retrieved 2011-03-30.
  2. ^ Syp, Mark (2012-11-17). "Robert Wood Johnson marks its anniversary with an eye toward the future of public health". Times of Trenton. Retrieved 2014-03-22.
  3. ^ "About Robert Wood Johnson Foundation". Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Retrieved 2014-03-22.
  4. ^ "Our Work". Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Retrieved 2014-03-22.
  5. ^ Strom, Stephanie (2007-04-04). "$500 Million Pledged to Fight Childhood Obesity". The New York Times.
  6. ^ "Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Information from". Retrieved 2011-03-30.
  7. ^ "Former CDC director Richard Besser, MD, named Robert Wood Johnson Foundation CEO". Healthcare IT News. 2017-02-14. Retrieved 2017-10-19.
  8. ^ "So Long, Stay Well: What Did Risa Lavizzo-Mourey Achieve at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation?". Inside Philanthropy. Retrieved 2017-10-19.
  9. ^ "Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's CEO is stepping down | NJBIZ". NJBIZ. Retrieved 2017-10-19.
  10. ^ "Physician "Prescriptions" Written During Medical Visit and "Filled" by Onsite Volunteers Connect Low-Income Families to Vital Community Resources". Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. AHRQ Web site. Retrieved 2014-03-24.
  11. ^ Nicole, Wallace (2012-10-28). "A Foundation's Innovative Grant Program Supports Unconventional Health-Care Solutions". The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Retrieved 2014-03-26.