The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is supporting a 36-month initiative featuring a prominent bipartisan national commission that was publicly launched in early 2008. The ultimate goal of the RWJF Commission to Build a Healthier America is to promote and guide national, state, and local public policies and private sector initiatives to reduce disparities in health among Americans in different socioeconomic and racial/ethnic groups. More immediately, the initiative aims to stimulate public dialogue about the causes of and solutions to socioeconomic and racial/ethnic health inequalities in this country.

Commission staff include two university-based groups and two communication firms, collaborating with Foundation staff. A UCSF-based research consortium, directed by Dr. Paula Braveman and co-directed by Dr. Susan Egerter, is taking the lead on building the scientific knowledge base needed to accurately describe the problem of disparities, its underlying causes, and broad policy interventions to ameliorate disparities. Dr. Catherine Cubbin is conducting research for the consortium under a subaward agreement between UCSF and UT Austin.

With ongoing critical input from nationally recognized multidisciplinary experts, the consortium will generate and synthesize findings from existing and new analyses of national and state data and from systematic reviews of existing knowledge on disparities, social determinants, and relevant interventions and policies; these findings will provide the basis for Commission reports and recommendations. Initial analytic work has provided a general overview of socioeconomic disparities in health and health determinants, using income and education as the main socioeconomic indicators and examining relationships between socioeconomic and racial/ethnic disparities. Subsequent in-depth analytic work focuses on disparities in key health indicators, on the social determinants of featured disparities, and on promising directions for interventions and policy responses to reduce disparities.

University of California San Francisco / Robert Wood Johnson Foundation