The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (also known by its abbreviation, RWJF) was named after its founder, Robert Wood “General” Johnson II, son of the co-founder of Johnson & Johnson.
The Foundation was a key funder of groups advocating for the enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. RWJF provided funds to Enroll America, an organization that the Obama administration used to recruit sign-ups for Obamacare health plans. Since 1995, the foundation’s financial influence on health care alone has accounted for almost 45 percent of all giving in the area of health policy.
Other notable grantees of RWJF include the Clinton Foundation to regulate soda consumption in public schools and the Tides Foundation to direct money to politically left-leaning causes and organizations. At the end of 2014, the foundation’s assets were $10.5 billion.
Robert Wood “General” Johnson II created the Johnson New Brunswick Foundation during the Great Depression in 1936. Johnson, who served as the former president and manager of the Johnson & Johnson company, established the foundation with 12,000 shares of company stock—worth about $5.4 million today. The formal ruling year listed for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is 1949.
Johnson passed away on January 30, 1968. In December 1971, the foundation emerged as a national philanthropy as a result of Johnson’s bequest of 10,204,377 shares of Johnson & Johnson stock, which translated into about $1.2 billion.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses the majority of its grant making into the following areas:
- Health Leadership – RWJF describes influencing and fostering leaders in the healthcare field, particularly with doctors, nurses, and scholars.
- Health Systems – RWJF describes improving health care access and quality primarily through Obamacare.
- Health Communities – RWJF describes improving communities by changing environmental factors such as funding public transportation and car emissions regulations.
- Healthy Children, Healthy Weight – RWJF attempts to combat childhood obesity through various methods including influencing state legislation that requires mandatory school BMI-measurement programs for screening or surveillance purposes and soda consumption limitations in schools. Over the next ten years, RWJF has pledged to award $500 million in support of further regulations to fight childhood obesity.
In 2003, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation began to transition their grant-making priorities to emphasize advocacy, particularly through health care reform and supporting overarching regulation to fight childhood obesity.
The foundation paid out over $350 million in grants in 2016-2017.
Example grantees or initiatives over the years include the following:
- Aligning Forces for Quality – RWJF launched Aligning Forces for Quality, a signature effort to lift the overall quality of health care in 16 targeted communities.
- CeaseFire – a program of Cure Violence, a nonprofit that utilizes ex-convicts and former gang members, clergy, and other community leaders to diffuse violent encounters and shootings in neighborhoods. CeaseFire programs have come under scrutiny in Chicago, where police have criticized CeaseFire staff about not sharing enough information or getting arrested for their own crimes.
- Nurse–Family Partnership – provides postnatal visits and follow-up with new mothers in poverty.
- Alliance for a Healthier Generation – created as a partnership of the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation. In May 2006, the alliance negotiated an agreement with the American Beverage Association and the top three U.S. beverage manufacturers to remove sweetened drinks from schools.
- Food Trust – RWJF financed the Center for Healthy Food Access initiative for over $3.7 million. The initiative seeks to bring supermarkets and grocery stores with health food options back to low income and underserved communities.
- Sports for Kids Foundation – an organization that brings recess back to schools, giving children the opportunity for more physical activity during the day.
- Tides Foundation – a donor-advised fund that directs money to politically center-left causes. In 2016, RWJF donated $2,000,000 to support the Convergence Partnership to build the Culture of Health Action Framework, an initiative launched by RWJF in 2014 to support scientific research that favors Obamacare and similar government-controlled healthcare systems.
- Pew Charitable Trusts – In 2016, RWJF donated nearly $5.2 million to non-health care affiliated businesses and communities to encourage enrollment in Obamacare.
Health Care Reform
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to advance Obamacare. RWJF played a key role in funding projects that would legitimize the idea of government-controlled “universal access,” bankrolling a wide range of nonprofits that would advance data and stories in support of the Obama administration program. The foundation provides its own research data and expert analysis in the healthcare debate, leaning in favor of a British- or Canadian-style single-payer health care system.
Once Obamacare was enacted, RWJF financed over $20 million in public efforts for Americans to enroll in Obamacare health plans. The main recipient of this money was Enroll America, the leading national nonprofit in this work.
Board and Key Staff
Since January 2013, Roger S. Fine has served as Chairman of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation board. Fine previously served as the corporate vice president and general counsel of Johnson & Johnson for 30 years.
In February 2017, Risa Lavizzo-Mourey stepped down as RWJF’s President and CEO. Richard Besser, a physician, was named the new leader effective as of April 2017. Besser previously served as the chief health and medical editor at ABC news and was a former acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) under the Obama administration.