"Almost two years into this crisis, the ability to protect yourself and your family is still heavily influenced by such factors as skin color and income level.”
—Richard Besser, RWJF President and CEO
CDC Resources: Information on how to get a vaccine, how to prepare for the vaccine and what to do after vaccination.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is focusing on four points essential to everyone's ability to achieve and maintain good health:
Access to Care - Family Supports - Food Security - Housing
Featured COVID-19 Content
Read news and perspectives from RWJF President and CEO Richard Besser and others.
Health Equity and COVID-19
The United States relegates those of certain races, wage levels, and immigration backgrounds to secondhand status. That's the conclusion of Richard Besser, a pediatrician who provides care to many uninsured children, and Dolores Acevedo-Garcia, a scholar who worked on the National Academies’ landmark A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty report. Our policy choices, they write in, make certain populations more likely to live in poverty and suffer lifelong repercussions. We know how to reduce poverty; the expanded Child Tax Credit has done it over the past six months. But the expanded credit has expired. Dr. Besser and Dr. Acevedo-Garcia explain why a permanent expansion of a more equitable Child Tax Credit is essential to eliminating child poverty. Read their op-ed in The Hill.
Public health recommendations represent the best scientific advice we have, but this guidance is meaningless if people cannot do what's necessary to protect themselves or their families. Case in point: CDC COVID-19 protocols assume that anyone can easily and quickly get tested, and that people can stay home while awaiting results. RWJF President and CEO Richard Besser recently experienced firsthand the deep frustrations of the current testing environment, and his CNN op-ed lays out how testing failures are a symptom of vast and enduring health inequities in the United States that must be addressed. He lays out the long list of needs—healthcare coverage, paid leave, childcare, housing supports, among others—that will persist well beyond the pandemic. Read his op-ed on CNN.com.
The COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 800,000 people in the United States, and although we’ve come far in our fight, the toll each day—more than 100,000 new cases, and over 1,000 deaths—is still sobering. RWJF President and CEO Richard Besser and Executive Vice President Julie Morita argue that the United States must summon the full weight of its scientific prowess and economic power to ensure that everyone has what they need to stay safe and healthy—no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they make. Their five strategic priorities to defeat COVID-19 once and for all begins, but does not end, with vaccination—and the nation’s role in helping to end the pandemic does not cease at our borders. Read their op-ed on Fox News.
The FDA and CDC have already determined that third shots are necessary for the severely immunocompromised who derived little or no protection from their initial shots. But that does not mean boosters are necessarily coming for everyone, certainly not all at once. RWJF Executive Vice President Julie Morita pens that boosters notwithstanding, our main focus should be inoculating the unvaccinated, as they account for the overwhelming majority of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Read her op-ed in The Hill.
The delta variant is a wild card as America's schools and businesses prepare for an uncertain fall. RWJF's Julie Morita lays out three vital areas of focus for the nation as we seek to finally end the pandemic and pave the way for a more equitable future: vaccination outreach and distribution; economic supports, including extensions of federal unemployment insurance, the eviction moratorium, and SNAP benefits; and children, who too often have been an afterthought during the pandemic but who deserve our caution and care. Read her op-ed in The Hill.
RWJF President and CEO Richard Besser and CEO of Habitat for Humanity International Jonathan T.M. Reckford describe housing in America as a case study in structural inequality. Widespread segregation by race and income has resulted in disenfranchised communities lacking access to quality education, well-paying jobs, and adequate transit. We need policies that support people of different races and income levels while empowering them with better choices about where to call home. Read their op-ed on ABC News.
While the United States is doing well on the whole, RWJF President and CEO Richard Besser states that ultimately what matters is how many people have had Covid-19 and how many are fully vaccinated in each community. As such, it is long past time to retire the idea of a national herd immunity and instead focus on local case levels and equitable vaccine coverage. Read his op-ed on CNN.com.
As two people who have worked in public health for decades at the federal and local levels, RWJF President and CEO Richard Besser and Executive Vice President Julie Morita have seen firsthand how the United States only prioritizes public health during emergencies, and that we define public health too narrowly. They argue that our nation needs to shift to a proactive approach that puts public health on solid ground, with sustainable and equitable funding—even during periods of calm—and expands the mandate of public health to confront the biggest health threat of our time: racism itself. Read their op-ed in The Hill.
As both parents and pediatricians, Richard Besser and Julie Morita stress the need to redouble our efforts to keep children safe and offer three fundamental steps to mitigate the pandemic’s effects on children. Read their op-ed in USA Today.
In politics today, language is often weaponized in an attempt to end the discussion and blunt any policy changes. We cannot let this happen with the concept of a more equitable nation, pens RWJF Executive Vice President Julie Morita. We need health equity in America in the same way that we need clean water, nutritious foods, safe streets and good schools. Read her op-ed in The Hill.
The American Rescue Plan Act provides hope for more than 100 million people, yet if we believe in an America in which everyone has opportunity and every person has equal value, our work is far from complete, pens RWJF President and CEO Richard Besser. Even if the pandemic were to end this year, the people for whom the legislation’s provisions are a lifeline still will be living in a nation steeped in inequities that cannot be eliminated with a single act of Congress, no matter how vast. Read his op-ed in The Hill.
Dismantling structural racism must become America’s ultimate public health intervention. Rich Besser highlights the need to rethink how the United States can address predictable challenges that arise in public health emergencies. During this pandemic and well before, some people suffer more than others simply because of the color of their skin, what they earn, and where they live. Read his op-ed on CNN.
Rich Besser says Congress, in crafting COVID relief legislation, must understand that one's economic health and one's physical and mental health are intertwined. He writes that lawmakers must act now to support people’s immediate needs during this pandemic, but also use this crisis as the impetus to address the long-term objective of building a society in which all people can live the healthiest lives possible. Read his op-ed in The Hill.
Rich Besser and RWJF Executive Vice President Julie Morita explain that in many states, an overzealous focus on speed of COVID-19 vaccine rollout is leaving behind many of those who should be vaccinated most urgently. Read their op-ed in USA Today.
Rich Besser explains the importance of transparency, patience and vigilance in improving vaccine uptake, and ensuring that the ability to get vaccinated is not determined by one’s race, income or privilege. Read his op-ed on ABC News.
Fear of COVID-19 forces millions of workers to make the decision to "go to work sick so they can pay rent, buy food and afford child care, or prioritize their health and risk economic instability," says Erika L. Moritsugu of the National Partnership for Women & Families and RWJF Vice President for Policy Avenel Joseph. Read their op-ed in The Hill.
The First Family’s diagnosis is just the latest indication that we are nowhere near the end of this pandemic, Rich Besser, and we all need the support to survive and thrive. Read Rich's op-ed in Scientific American.
Rich Besser states that for many of the nearly 28 million people in America without health insurance, complying with the CDC guidelines to stay home with COVID-19 symptoms is an impossibility, especially for people of color or those in low-wage jobs. Read Rich's CNN op-ed.
Former CDC Directors Richard Besser, Tom Frieden, Jeffrey Koplan and David Satcher explain why the agency's guidance on reopening schools must be based on sound science, not political pressure—and centered on safety and health equity. Read their op-ed in The Washington Post.
RWJF Executive Vice President Julie Morita highlights the urgent need for the CDC to take the lead in activating and coordinating the nation’s COVID-19 vaccine planning, including mapping out the effective and equitable distribution of a vaccine. Read Julie's op-ed on CNN.
Rich Besser highlights the importance of collecting, analyzing, and reporting data by race, gender, ethnicity, income and other demographics to understand who is being hit hardest by the pandemic and to guide states' response, recovery, and reopening plans. Read Rich's op-ed in USA Today.
Rich Besser highlights how risk of COVID-19 exposure and the ability to protect oneself and one’s family depends on income, access to health care, and immigration status, among other factors. Read Rich's Washington Post op-ed.
Rich Besser and Rebecca Cokley, director of the Disability Justice Initiative, highlight how COVID-19 continues to unearth uncomfortable truths about inequity and speak out for the disabled in America. Read Rich and Rebecca's CNN Opinion commentary.
RWJF Executive Vice President Julie Morita highlights the need to treat Asian Americans not as enemies, but as fellow victims of the insidious Coronavirus that does not distinguish by place, race, age or gender. Read Julie's Chicago Tribune op-ed.
The coronavirus response is revealing inadequate health equity and public policy. Read Rich's Patient Engagement HIT op-ed.
"It's hitting communities of color harder than other communities," and those facing economic, housing, and food insecurity. Richard Besser calls on us to make health equity part of the COVID-19 conversation. —CNN NewsDay
Brian Quinn, associate vice president, Research-Evaluation-Learning, and Mona Shah, senior program officer, share why decision-makers should turn to research and scientific data to enact policies that address the deep disparities Coronavirus is illuminating. Read Brian and Mona's op-ed published in The Hill.
Informing the Public
Drs. Besser & Morita: COVID vaccine questions—It's normal to have them. We did, too. Here's what we learned.
RWJF President and CEO Richard Besser and Executive Vice President Julie Morita, like many people across the country, had questions before recently getting their first COVID-19 shots. Both are pediatricians, but they needed answers before rolling up their own sleeves and recommending COVID-19 vaccines to family and friends. We need to give every person in this country the space, and grace, to make up their minds. After all, they write, trust must be earned. Read their op-ed on Foxnews.com.
The CDC was damaged by marginalization and politicization. This is how Biden can fix it.
Four former CDC directors advocate for the agency—which has been the world's gold standard for public health—and lay out what needs to happen to rebuild trust through this pandemic and beyond. When driven by science, unimpeded by politics and consistently funded, the CDC will be able to save lives and protect the economy when threats arrive. Read the op-ed on NBCNews.com.
Dr. Richard Besser: Despite coronavirus, science is NOT telling us to close schools
RWJF President and CEO Richard Besser advises we do all we can to keep children in school by providing the funds for proper staffing, equipment, protective gear and ventilation systems. Without these supports, we cannot expect schools to remain open. Read his Fox News op-ed.
Covid-19 tsunami of suffering: The pandemic isn’t pausing; U.S. shouldn’t either
Rich Besser explains that as the brutal COVID-19 winter looms, suffering in 2020 will continue well into the new year without actions by federal and state governments and a renewed commitment for people to follow public health guidance. Read his op-ed in USA Today.
America's Last Line of Defense for a Safe Vaccine
The two public health agencies responsible for overseeing the approval, distribution and use of a coronavirus vaccine have been undermined and politicized, explains RWJF Executive Vice President Julie Morita and Edward Belongia, director of the Center for Clinical Epidemiology & Population Health at the Marshfield Clinic Research Institute. Fortunately, both the FDA and the CDC have a last line of defense when it comes to approval and distribution of a vaccine: panels of outside experts who now merit the nation’s attention and unequivocal support. Read the op-ed in Scientific American.
After Trumps' diagnosis: Vaccine or not, COVID-19 isn’t going away
Rich Besser shares five reasons why the finish line of the coronavirus pandemic is nowhere in sight, and why the people of America and our government must remain vigilant. Read his op-ed in USA Today.
We Can't Allow the CDC to Be Tainted by Politics
Rich Besser explains that delaying or politicizing the CDC Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report would be a breach of public trust that could undermine the nation’s efforts to fight coronavirus, particularly in communities of color. Read his Scientific American op-ed.
We Ran the CDC. Here's How to Talk to the Public in a Health Crisis
Rich Besser and former RWJF Trustee Jeff Koplan—each of whom led the CDC during public health emergencies—lay out the importance of regular, science-based and careful communications to inform the public during the “shared journey” of this pandemic. Read their op-ed in Barron's.
School meals should remain free for all children—today and always. School meals are often the difference between whether or not children have enough to eat on any given day. All schools will be permitted to serve free meals to all students—also known as universal school meals—for the 2021–2022 school year, a product and recognition of the economic and social upheaval caused by COVID-19. But the value of good nutrition to children, families, and schools is long-term and profound. RWJF President and CEO Richard Besser and Senior Program Officer Jamie Bussel explain why universal school meals should be permanent.
Dr. Richard Besser: Despite coronavirus, science is NOT telling us to close schools. In an op-ed on FoxNews.com, Dr. Besser makes the case for providing schools with the necessary resources to open schools safely including proper staffing, equipment, protective gear and ventilation systems.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Operational Strategy for Reopening Schools. This website provides information to school and program administrators on how and when to return to in-person learning and offers strategies for preventing and reducing the spread of COVID-19. The site also offers resources for teachers including nutrition resources, classroom layouts and printable posters about what to do if a child or staff member gets sick.
Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics School Reopening Plan Tracker. This website offers state-by-state breakdowns of coronavirus trends and reopening plan components.
RWJF is monitoring COVID-19 and following guidance made available by the CDC and NIH.
The CDC provides information on COVID-19 symptoms, testing, prevention, coping, etc., as well as frequently asked questions.
NIH provides the latest research and information on the emerging, rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation.
NAM is mobilizing critical expertise to inform COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, including guidance on safely reopening schools.
FEMA is helping the public distinguish between rumors and facts regarding the response to COVID-19.
Johns Hopkins is helping advance the understanding of the virus, informing the public, and briefing policymakers in order to guide a response, improve care, and save lives.
FDA is working with U.S. Government partners, including CDC, and international partners to address the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak.
WHO provides daily coronavirus situation reports, news, and recommendations for the public.
Featured Grantee Resources
- RWJF Policies for Action—Ensuring an Inclusive COVID-19 Recovery
- Center for Strategic & International Studies—Why Vaccine Confidence Matters
- Health Action Alliance–Using business against COVID-19
- Vanderbilt University–Culture Contexts of Health and Wellbeing: five ways to improve pandemic response by centering a community’s cultural beliefs and values.
- Urban Institute–COVID-19: Policies to Protect People and Communities
- State Health Access Data Assistance Center–Studying the Impact of COVID-19: State-Level Data Resources on State Health Compare
- State Health & Value Strategies–COVID-19 Resources for States
- RWJF Policies for Action—Ensuring an Inclusive COVID-19 Recovery