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RWJF Head, Lavizzo-Mourey, to Step Down After 14 Years

Laura Joszt
Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, is stepping down as president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) after 14 years in charge. As of yet, no successor has been named.
Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, is stepping down as president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) after 14 years in charge. As of yet, no successor has been named, and Lavizzo-Mourey, the first woman and African American to helm RWJF, will stay in her position until one is in place.

As leader of RWJF, Lavizzo-Mourey worked to advance the Culture of Health, a vision in which everyone in America can live longer, healthier lives.

“It has been a true pleasure and honor to work alongside a visionary like Risa,” James Marks, MD, MPH, executive vice president of RWJF, said in a statement. “She will be greatly missed, but will leave us a tremendous legacy. Building a Culture of Health is a vision that will energize our work for years to come.” 

RWJF began its work on the Culture of Health initiative in 2014, which required changing the way people approach health and healthcare.

"One of the things that we've learned as a nation is that health involves a lot of things that are inter-related," she said during an interview with The American Journal of Managed Care (AJMC). "And so while for years we've been focusing on trying to improve things like childhood obesity or smoking rates or other single factors that are associated with health, in actuality if we're going to build a Culture of Health, we're going to have to realize that these are inter-connected."

Watch the video interview here.

In 2015, as part of AJMC’s 20th anniversary celebration, Lavizzo-Mourey wrote a special guest commentary on the key role that accountable care organizations can play in building a Culture of Health.

“When ACOs succeed, they can improve the overall health of large groups of patients. But I see an even larger role for ACOs—they can be accountable not just for improving the health of their patients, but for improving the health of their entire community, by collaborating with local nonprofits and government entities to address such social determinants of health as housing, poverty, and unsafe neighborhoods,” she wrote.

Lavizzo-Mourey also spearheaded initiatives to reverse childhood obesity in the United States. RWJF’s childhood obesity initiative attracted the attention of Michelle Obama, who adopted the cause with her own campaign.

Throughout the 9 years of RWJF’s childhood obesity initiative, the rate among children between the ages of 2 and 19 held steady at 17%, and the rate among children ages 2 to 5 decreased to 13.9% in 2003-2004 to 8.9% in 2011-2014.

“Risa’s commitment to improving the health of this nation during her tenure as CEO is simply unparalleled, and she has led this Foundation with an extraordinary sense of purpose and passion,” Roger Fine, chairman of the RWJF Board of Trustees said. “It is difficult to see her leave but we are fortunate that she will remain at the helm until a successor is in place.”

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