Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
P.O. Box 2316
College Road East and Route 1
Princeton, N.J. 08543-2316
(888) 631-9989

The foundation began after its namesake, the man behind the Johnson & Johnson medical empire, left the majority of his estate to begin what would become the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of Americans. Working with a variety of organizations and individuals, the foundation funds research, education and other efforts at hospitals; medical, nursing and public schools; hospices; professional associations; research organizations; government agencies and community organizations.

Reducing Disparities in Health Care

Among the foundation’s key areas of focus are addressing disparities and public health issues and building human capital in the health care workplace. Last fall, the foundation announced three national initiatives—and dedicated $23 million—aimed at eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in health care treatment. Their goal is to reduce disparities in the next three years by examining patient care and current health systems and by making suggestions for improved care.

Researchers at George Washington University, the University of Chicago and Harvard University are leading the three programs. They will focus on cardiac care received by minority patients and fund various organizations to focus on disparities in health plans, hospitals and community clinics. They will also collect and analyze results from other research on disparities to inform efforts at improving care and technical processes in health systems.

Among other reports, the foundation’s health research publications dealt with covered care at big-city hospitals, the effects of anthrax on those exposed, how federal health dollars are being spent in the states, and protecting public health in the face of bioterrorism.

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Building Human Capital

Not all of the foundation’s work is research-related, however. One area allied health students and professionals should keep an eye on is the foundation’s focus on building human capital. Robert Wood Johnson funds training and education programs for doctors, nurses and other health care workers. In 2005, the foundation hosted a series of one-day informational workshops, Frontline Workforce Development: Promoting Partnerships and Emerging Practices in Health and Health Care, to share research and tips for the advancement of the allied health workforce.

The foundation has particularly focused on those professionals who receive the smallest compensation, such as nurse aides, home health aides, psychiatric technicians, and others because, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Web site, these health care workers are “often the first and most frequent point of contact for patients and clients. Despite their importance, these essential workers are often poorly paid and have limited opportunities for training, advancement and reward.”


One of the programs in this area aims to train workers in hospitals and other facilities so that employees at all levels—from housekeeping to nurses—can receive continuing education to encourage their advancement.

Addressing Needs

Like many organizations and schools interested in addressing both health disparities among their patients, as well as career advancement and adequate pay for their allied health care workers, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation also values assisting their minority students and professionals to receive the training they need to be successful in the field of allied health.

“The biggest challenge is the anti-affirmative action climate in this country,” says Contance Pechura, senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “Because of the Supreme Court decisions in the Michigan cases, it puts any program that’s based on selection by ethnicity or race in very murky legal territory.” As a result, the foundation has expanded its criteria for some programs to include economically disadvantaged rural areas.

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The Basics

The Robert Wood Johnson foundation maintains an informative and up-to-date Web site ( that you can check out for interesting developments in research and current health care and public health trends. Visit the site to stay informed or to check its “Job Opportunities” section under “About Us.”

Web site:

Number of grants and contracts made in 2004: 823

Total amount awarded in 2004: $249.3 million

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