An aerial view of the RWJF headquarters in Princeton, N.J.

For over five decades, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has operated under the fundamental belief that everyone in America should have a fair and just opportunity to thrive.


Working toward a nation rooted in equity, compassion, and respect, we continue to honor our founder's vision of building a healthier, more equitable America.  

We hold on to that belief now more than ever. And, as we look to RWJF’s future, we are making significant changes to our work to join others in paving the way to a future where health is no longer a privilege, but a right. To get there, we must work to dismantle structural racism and other barriers to health. Our mission has not changed, but we are much clearer about the barriers we need to confront and the systems through which change is possible.  

"Culture of Health" Legacy

From 2015-2023, RWJF and many other organizations worked to build a Culture of Health, which was an organizing principle to catalyze, chart, and measure the nation’s progress toward greater health, wellbeing, and equity. 

As we’ve gotten clearer in our strategy of achieving health equity – faster and together, we’ve developed a clearer way of talking about our vision and the work. A Culture of Health will always be a part of our legacy, and we are gratified to see the ways it has been adopted by many others who are working toward a day when health is no longer a privilege, but a right. 

 At RWJF, our work has always been rooted in a vision of health equity. The years of the pandemic and racial reckoning crystallized our view that our nation’s policies and social practices privilege some and disadvantage others. That is why our work and our language has evolved to crystallize RWJF’s focus on one of the biggest barriers to health in America: structural racism.  

Learn about our legacy around a Culture of Health and our current vision for a future where health is no longer a privilege, but a right.

Understanding Our Past to Strengthen Our Path to Health Equity

To continue our efforts to dismantle the barriers to opportunities for health, we need to look critically at our legacy as an organization—including our actions and inaction over the years. RWJF’s Truth, Repair and Transformation process builds on our commitment to health equity over the years by more explicitly focusing on truth-telling, repair, and accountability as necessary conditions for sustaining change that leads to health equity and justice. This includes efforts to reckon with, and repair, philanthropy’s role in historical disinvestment in communities most impacted by structural inequities and to root funder-grantee relationships more deeply in mutual learning and trust. This also includes doubling down on positive steps the Foundation has already taken that rectify historical injustices and advance health equity while divesting from those that don’t.

Read more about Truth, Repair and Transformation at RWJF.

  • 2024


    Sharpening Our Focus On Structural Racism

    RWJF announces its commitment to confronting structural racism to transform health, and crystallizes a commitment to paving the way to a future where health is no longer a privilege, but a right.  

  • 2021


    Building Community Power 

    RWJF invests $90 million in community power-building as instrumental for advancing health and racial equity, and commits to deeply learning about how community power plays a role in advancing our strategies to improve the health and well-being of all in America. This work helped amplify community voices, share learning, and build networks. Grants went to support and collaborate with community power-building organizations and regional and national networks to advance local base-building and other power-building methods in areas such as housing justice, birth justice, caregiving, and health care system change for health and racial equity. 

  • 2019


    Confronting Racism

    RWJF announced a partnership with the NAACP in 2019, highlighting an increasing commitment to racial equity and grassroots activism.  

  • 2016


    Shifting the Culture

    RWJF hones its focus around four central themes: children, communities, health and health care, and leadership.  

  • 2015


    Taking Action

    RWJF unveils the Action Framework with 41 evidenced-based measures pointing to “greater wellbeing and health equity for all.” Motivated by hopeful signs of progress, as well as persistent and troubling racial and ethnic inequities in that progress, RWJF pledges a second $500 million to continue the work.


  • 2013


    Eyes on the Prize

    The Roadmaps to Health Prize begins honoring communities at the forefront of improving health. It will be renamed the Culture of Health Prize the following year.

  • 2009


    Health Equity for All

    While RWJF’s commitment to health equity  has roots as far back as the General, the convening of the high-profile Commission to Build A Healthier America is a key public milestone on our journey.

  • 2003


    Addressing Obesity

    RWJF revises its access and chronic health conditions goal areas to bring them more fully into alignment with the goal of improving the quality of health care for all Americans. RWJF designates childhood obesity as one of its top priorities.

  • 1997


    Covering Kids

    RWJF pioneers Covering Kids: A National Health Access Initiative for Low-Income, Uninsured Children (1997–2002) 1) identify and enroll children eligible for Medicaid and other public health insurance programs; 2) simplify the enrollment process; and 3) promote coordination among programs. RWJF’s efforts contribute to impressive results: The number of uninsured children drops from 11 million in 1997 to 8 million in 2002. The successor program, Covering Kids & Families (2001–2009), saw enrollment in the state Children’s Health Insurance Program double to 4.4 million between 2000 and 2007.

  • 1996


    Communities and Collaboration

    Recognition that well-being increasingly is rooted in non-medical areas inspires RWJF to partner with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation on a 10-year program to make the nation’s public health system “more effective, more community-based and more collaborative." Operating in 22 states, the program, Turning Point: Collaborating for a New Century in Public Health (1996–2006), engages stakeholders not previously involved in public health, among them businesses, educators, and faith communities. The program spurs creation of statewide public health institutes and a national movement toward accreditation of health departments.

  • 1989


    Beyond the $1 Billion Mark

    RWJF awards the billionth dollar of grant funds since its establishment as a national foundation in 1972.

  • 1988


    Funding for Health Policy Research

    RWJF establishes the nation’s largest source of private funding for research and policy analysis of health care economics and organizational infrastructure. Changes in Health Care Financing and Organization (1988–2014) provides a bridge between researchers and policy-makers. Funded studies focus on topics such as Medicare, links between health costs and the general economy, the economics of care coordination, private insurance, and the nation’s long-term care needs.

  • 1987


    First Grant: Student Aid

    Deepening its home-state commitment, the New Jersey Health Initiatives program (1987–2014) invests in innovative projects in ambulatory and community health in New Jersey. A diverse grants portfolio supports projects focused principally on two themes: preventing dating abuse among adolescents and promoting health literacy among immigrants.

  • 1972


    Clinical Scholars Program Begins

    Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program - (1972–2021) provides funding to physicians with postdoctoral training in innovative research, administrative leadership, policy-making, and community-based participatory research. Past Scholars have gone on to become directors of government agencies, academic departments, hospitals, and foundations.

  • 1972


    First Grant: Student Aid

    RWJF makes its first grant: $44 million to the Association of American Medical Colleges for student aid.

  • 1968


    A Generous Legacy

    On January 30, Johnson & Johnson’s founder and principal shareholder, Robert Wood Johnson died, leaving his common stock in the company to the Foundation.

  • 1952


    Focus Broadens

    The Johnson New Brunswick Foundation Board of Trustees changes its name to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and amends its certificate of incorporation to allow grantmaking beyond Middlesex County. New Jersey remained the focus of the Foundation’s work until 1972.

  • 1936


    The Beginning

    The Johnson New Brunswick Foundation is incorporated, principally to address needs in New Jersey’s Middlesex County. Its first act was to transfer 130 acres of land to the county for a public park on the banks of the Raritan River. Johnson Park, as it is known today, is a beautiful gathering spot with picnic groves, sports fields, an animal haven, and a restored 18th century village.


Our Founder, Robert Wood "General" Johnson II Robert Wood Johnson II

Robert Wood “General” Johnson

Our Founder

It was during the Great Depression that Robert Wood Johnson II rose to the challenge of assisting employees of Johnson & Johnson and other members of his community as they coped with the worst economic disaster to ever impact this country.

He was driven in part by a childhood bout with rheumatic fever, which left him with an enlarged heart and repeated adult hospitalizations. Johnson experienced firsthand the shortcomings of healthcare in America.

In December 1936, with 12,000 shares of his own Johnson & Johnson stock—worth about $5.4 million today—Johnson endowed the Johnson New Brunswick Foundation. His aim was modest: to help local people down on their luck.

Johnson—known as “the General” since securing the commission of brigadier general in World War II—retained a sharp focus on upgrading health and health care. At war’s end, he revived and replenished his philanthropy, renaming it the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) after his father, in 1952.

By the early 1960's, Johnson had his own agenda for system reform and quality improvement: patient care comes first; tear down the “rigid caste system” that impedes hospital fairness and efficiency; give nurses a greater say in patient care; professionalize nursing; and give scholarships to underserved students for careers.

Throughout his life, Robert Wood Johnson II maintained a philosophy of what he called "enlightened self-interest," calling upon business and industry to accept and fulfill its full share of social responsibility. This principle was expressed in the disposition of his own fortune. Upon his death on January 30, 1968, he left virtually all of it to the Foundation, creating one of the world's largest private philanthropies.

Our Home: New Jersey

In our own backyard, there is a lot to be proud of when it comes to health—but there also are wide, persistent gaps in health across the state of New Jersey. We redouble our commitment to improving health and advancing health equity for all in New Jersey and beyond.