County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, A Healthier Nation, County by County

Learn about the data & methods

Our Approach

The County Health Rankings model of population health

Download Rankings Data

Get data for the entire nation or a state

What can I do?

Action Center

Explore guides and tools for improving health

What can I learn from others?

County-by-County Blog

Project updates, commentaries, events and news about health across the nation from the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps team.

RWJF Culture of Health Prize

The RWJF Culture of Health Prize honors and elevates U.S. communities that are making great strides in their journey toward better health.

Prize FAQs

General Prize FAQs

Phase I FAQs

​Phase II FAQs

​Finalist & Site Visit FAQs

General Prize FAQs

How do we apply for the RWJF Culture of Health Prize?

A call for applications for the 2016 RWJF Culture of Health Prize will be released in fall 2015. The best way to be notified as soon as the call for applications opens is to sign up here for the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps newsletter.

How many Prizes will be given?

Up to ten $25,000 Prizes will be announced in fall 2015. Each applicant community will designate a local U.S governmental entity or tax-exempt public charity operating in its community to accept the Prize funds on the community's behalf, should they win.

When will the 2015 winners be announced?

Winners will be announced publicly in fall 2015.

What are the 2015 finalist communities?

The 2015 finalist communities are:

Bridgeport, Connecticut
Bronx, New York 
El Paso County, Texas
Everett, Massachusetts 
Itta Bena, Mississippi
Kansas City, Missouri 
Lac du Flambeau Tribe, Wisconsin
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania 
Lawrence, Massachusetts
Marin City, California 
Menominee Indian Tribe, Wisconsin
Quad Cities, Illinois & Iowa 
Santa Clara County, California
Sonoma County, California 
Spartanburg County, South Carolina     

Is my community eligible to apply?

Applicant communities can be any of the following:

  • Town
  • City
  • County
  • Tribe or tribal community
  • Region (such as contiguous towns, cities, or counties)​

​​Are neighborhoods eligible to apply?

While neighborhoods may not apply on their own, the work of neighborhoods can absolutely be featured as part of the broader efforts being undertaken in towns and cities.

How is the RWJF Culture of Health Prize different from a grant?

The Prize celebrates communities' successes -- what they have already achieved -- while grants provide dollars to help communities move forward, often to meet specific goals and objectives. The Prize is a cash award and community partners can decide together how to use the funds to benefit the community; reports to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) or the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI) on Prize expenditures are not required.

Who should submit the application?

The application should reflect the work of the community as a whole, not just one organization. Community members should select two people, who may or may not be from the same organization, to serve as primary and alternate contacts on the application.

What are the responsibilities of the primary and alternate contacts?

The primary and alternate contacts will receive all communications about a community's Prize application. These communications include, but are not limited to, notifications about whether a community has been selected to advance from Phase I to Phase II of the selection process, and if selected for Phase II, whether a community has been selected as a finalist and invited to receive a site visit. The primary contact often serves as the local contact person for site visits; however, this can be delegated to another person or organization.

Can any community win?

Yes. The Prize will be awarded to communities that are each on their own unique journey toward better health.

Every community can participate in the process of becoming healthier. Judges will evaluate each applicant individually, considering demonstrated progress relative to the Prize criteria in light of each community's unique challenges, opportunities and resources.

What is the connection between the Prize and the County Health Rankings model? Will applicant communities be judged according to their County Health Rankings?

The Prize and its selection criteria are based on the same model of population health improvement that underpins the County Health Rankings. Selection criteria for the Prize are completely independent of health outcomes and health factor rankings. Communities will be judged on their accomplishments - not whether they are ranked first or last in the County Health Rankings.

What is the connection between the Prize and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s grantmaking program?

The Prize is open to all communities, including those who have and have not previously received grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Communities will be judged on what they have accomplished relative to available resources, regardless of the funding source. 

Our community participated in last year's competition but did not win. May we reapply?

Yes. With the exception of finalists and winners, all past applicants are eligible and encouraged to reapply. Finalist communities (those that received a site visit, but did not win the Prize) are asked to sit out at least one round of the competition before reapplying. Past finalists that advance to Phase II of the competition will be asked to incorporate and emphasize how new and continued efforts and accomplishments demonstrate tangible progress toward building a Culture of Health across all six Prize criteria since their Prize submission and site visit.

How will applications be evaluated?

The Prize criteria will drive the judging throughout the selection process, from Phase I through the site visits. Judges will not only review each criterion individually, but will also consider how the community creates momentum towards positive and lasting change with an eye towards how the community has demonstrated creativity and determination in addressing a wide range of health priorities. Finally, judges will seek to elevate communities having compelling and inspirational stories -- and people to tell these stories -- with the goal of inspiring a nation of communities building a Culture of Health.

How will winners be selected?

Communities will advance from Phase I to Phase II based on how well their four accomplishments illustrate the six Prize criteria with a particular emphasis on the first three criteria: (1) defining health in the broadest possible terms, (2) committing to sustainable systems changes and policy-oriented long-term solutions, and (3) cultivating a shared and deeply-held belief in the importance of equal opportunity for health. Advancing from Phase II to finalist status will also be based on a review of the application materials (written materials and multimedia presentation) according to how well the community as a whole has embraced all six Prize criteria. Winners will be selected based on a combination of Phase I and II materials and how compelling, inspiring and real those materials become during the face-to-face site visit. During the site visit, communities may also feature accomplishments and information beyond what was included in the written application that supports how they are improving health in their community.

Who will select the winners?

Phase I and Phase II applications will be evaluated by a panel of judges that include staff from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program at the University of Wisconsin and a national panel of community health experts. This process will determine the communities selected for a site visit.

Site visitors will include staff from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program at the University of Wisconsin and national community health experts. Site visitors will score each community visited based on the Prize criteria and provide a recommendation to the Roadmaps to Health Advisory Group who will then select and recommend up to ten winning communities to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The final slate of winning communities will be approved by RWJF Senior Leadership.

May we submit letters of support on behalf of our application?

No supplementary materials will be accepted, but we strongly encourage you to highlight your partners and supporters in your multimedia presentation and/or site visit should you advance in the Prize selection process.

If my community wins, who gets the money?

During Phase II, each applicant community will be required to designate a local U.S. governmental or tax exempt public charity operating in its community to accept the $25,000 Prize on the community's behalf, should they win. Community partners can decide together how to use the funds to benefit the community; reports to RWJF or UWPHI on Prize expenditures are not required.

What is expected of communities who win the RWJF Culture of Health Prize?

Based on their demonstrated capacity for and dedication to creating lasting change, representatives from winning communities will be expected to serve as ambassadors for building a Culture of Health across America - sharing their successes, learning from others, and networking locally, regionally, and nationally. This may be accomplished via interviews with print, radio, electronic or television media; presentations at regional, state or national conferences; invitations to present on national webinars; opportunities to serve on national advisory groups; and other avenues to be determined. Winners will work closely with RWJF communications and UWPHI staff to prepare for these events.

Are you aiming for geographic diversity, or is it possible for multiple communities from one state to all win?

Our primary goal is to recognize communities that are working on the forefront of health improvement to build a Culture of Health as exemplified by the six Prize criteria. Judges will also keep in mind the goal of inspiring action in many different types of communities across the country, and so will value diversity among winning communities. This may include but will not be limited to geographic diversity.

My community may not be quite ready to submit this year. How much do the criteria and selection process change from year to year? Could we use the criteria as guideposts for our readiness?

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has an enduring commitment to the RWJF Culture of Health Prize. The Prize criteria are at the core of the program and are not likely to change substantially going forward. With this in mind, communities are encouraged to use the criteria as a general resource for health improvement action as well as a tool for gauging readiness for applying for the Prize. Community leaders may find the Poised for Progress tool helpful to conduct this type of assessment.

We are interested in improving our application. Is there a way to find out why our community did not win last year?

Due to the large volume of applications received, the program is unable to provide feedback to communities about their past applications. We encourage you to conduct a self- assessment of your application using the six Prize criteria found in the Call for Applications and the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps Poised for Progress tool. Applicants that advance to Phase II and are not selected as finalists do receive written feedback about how their application met the six Prize criteria.

How many applications were received for the last round?

Over 340 applications were received for the 2015 competition.

Is there a minimum or maximum population size?

No. The program invites applications from all communities (towns, cities, counties, tribes/tribal communities, regions) regardless of population size.

Will there be future rounds of the next RWJF Culture of Health Prize after 2015?

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation plans to issue an annual Call for Applications for the Prize for the foreseeable future.

What if a community submits more than one application?

Collaboration within communities is strongly encouraged and judges will look favorably on applicants that have done the legwork to bring diverse organizations and partnerships together for a single Phase I submission from each community. In the event of a community with “competing” applications, each application will be reviewed independently. If two or more applications from the same community are advanced to Phase II, applicants will be encouraged to work together to submit one response on behalf of the whole community.

Are communities within U.S. territories eligible to apply?  

Yes. Communities within U.S. territories are welcome to apply, including American Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Marshall Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Phase I FAQs

Do we need accomplishments in all four factor areas in order to apply?

No, applicants are encouraged to elevate accomplishments that best exemplify the Prize criteria and as such are strongly encouraged to consider how work across their community reflects the County Health Rankings model. While policies, programs, and strategies that support healthy eating, physical activity, and other health behaviors are important, they are only one piece of the puzzle. Standing alone, these will not result in a competitive application. Because of their strong influence on health outcomes, judges have particular interest in accomplishments targeting social and economic factors. Applicants will be asked to describe how the community is working in all four health factor areas as shown in the County Health Rankings model as part of the phase II submission.

We are having a hard time deciding on just four accomplishments to feature. What do you suggest?

There is no best way to determine which accomplishments to feature on your application, but we encourage community members to collaborate on these decisions and keep the Prize criteria in mind during your deliberations.

What are policy, environmental, and systems changes as described in the second Prize criterion?​

In general, these types of changes represents a shift from thinking about improving individual health to thinking about how to improve health at a population level by making healthy choices the easy choices. Policy change includes the passing of laws, ordinances, resolutions, mandates, regulations, or rules; system change involves change made to the rules or processes within an organization or the rules or processes that guide how different organizations work together; and environmental change is a change made to the physical environment. Policy change can also enable successful programs to be replicated and/or funded. These changes may target many different kinds and sizes of populations. For example, policy changes in education could affect students and their families in one school, a whole school district, a county, or a state.

What if our community hasn't yet undertaken work in the area of policy, environmental, or systems change?

This work is difficult -- but it's crucial for improving population health. Communities that have not yet done this type of work may not yet be competitive for the Prize, but we encourage you to explore the wide variety of resources available to communities in this area, including the Roadmaps to Health Action Center and What Works for Health.

How are applicants notified if they are advancing to Phase II?

All applicants will be notified via email. Those advancing to Phase II will receive an invitation with detailed instructions about requirements and deadlines for the next stage of the process.

Communities benefit from many different types of partnerships, including those with organizations located outside their geopolitical boundaries. May we consider such partnerships for our Phase I Prize Essay?

Yes. Community applicants are encouraged to illustrate the depth and breadth of partnerships within and beyond their communities. Please keep in mind, however, that judges seek to honor communities that are driving the process from within. Communities should be able to demonstrate an internal force and passion for health improvement that is independent of external contributions.

Do judges give preference to applications that emphasize well-established policies, programs, or strategies? 

Not necessarily. Applicant communities are encouraged to consider both newly implemented and well-established accomplishments in selecting four that best exemplify the Prize criteria overall.

Are Prize criteria ranked in order of importance?

The six Prize criteria together drive the RWJF Culture of Health Prize competition from beginning to end; all play a vital role in selection of winners. That said, the first three criteria do play a more prominent role in Phase I, when judges pay close attention to how applicant communities have (1) defined health; (2) committed to sustainable systems changes and policy-oriented long-term solutions; and (3) cultivated a shared and deeply-held belief in the importance of equal opportunity for health.

Phase II FAQs

What will be required as part of the Phase II Application?

For Phase II, invited community applicants will:

  • Submit a second brief essay to provide judges with additional information about community health improvement efforts, with a focus on what they have done and how they have done it, including how the community is working in all four health factor areas as show in the County Health Rankings model.
  • Prepare a brief four-minute multimedia presentation that brings their community to life.
  • Draft a site visit itinerary to give judges a sense of what they might see and who they might meet should their community be selected as a finalist.
  • Designate a local governmental or tax exempt public charity within the community to accept the $25,000 Prize on the community's behalf, should their community win.
  • Past finalists will be asked to incorporate and emphasize how new and continued efforts and accomplishments demonstrate tangible progress toward building a Culture of Health across all six Prize criteria since their prize submission and site visit. To accommodate the request for additional information, past finalists will be allowed to submit an essay up to six pages in length (standard Phase II Essays may be up to five pages in length).

Should the Phase II essay include a statement of how we intend to use the Prize money should we win? ​

No. The RWJF Culture of Health Prize offers a cash Prize of $25,000 to each winning community. There is no need or expectation for applicant communities to state their intentions anywhere in application materials.

Is a multimedia presentation required of applicants?

Yes, but only for those communities who are selected to advance to Phase II of the selection process.

The multimedia presentation is intended to supplement the paper application by giving judges a glimpse into important visual aspects of your community as well as an opportunity to hear directly from community members. The presentation may include photographs and/or video, and may be accompanied by music and/or narration. We encourage you to use this opportunity to bring your community to life for judges; for example, you may wish to include scenes from community events or interviews with community members and leaders.

Could you recommend a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to create a multimedia presentation?

For production, communities may wish to consider using,,, or other user-friendly sites that offer services for free or nominal costs. You may also want to tap into the creative expertise that already exists in your community. Former applicants have enlisted the help of their local media, high school video clubs, and local businesses. Judges' assessments of multimedia presentations will be based on thoughtfulness of content rather than production quality. We strongly urge communities to rely on economical, user-friendly, online video-production platforms (such as those listed above) in lieu of more costly options.

How long should the multimedia presentation be?

The multimedia presentation may be up to 4 minutes (240 seconds) in length.

The videos featuring the winning communities on the RWJF website are very well done. Are these videos submitted by communities as part of their applications or are they produced for the announcement of winners? ​

The featured videos are produced by RWJF following winner selection; these videos were NOT submitted by applicant communities. For the multimedia presentation, communities are encouraged to make use of user-friendly and low-cost options such as are described here.

Should the multimedia presentation focus on the four accomplishments from the Phase I application or should we think more broadly?

Judges will be looking to the multimedia presentations to provide a visual introduction to applicant communities, their residents and leaders, and their accomplishments. Therefore, in creating their multi-media presentations, communities are encouraged to think broadly and use the multimedia presentation as an opportunity to enhance - rather than reiterate - Phase I content.

Would it be acceptable to include interviews with elected officials or other decision-makers in the multimedia presentation?

Yes. Communities are encouraged (but absolutely not required) to include interviews with elected officials, other formal and informal decision-makers, and/or community members in the multi-media presentation.

Are 2013 and 2014 Prize winners available to provide advice or guidance to future applicants?

As ambassadors for the Prize, RWJF Culture of Health Prize winners share a desire to inspire community improvement efforts throughout the nation, a role which includes but is not limited to discussing their work at local, regional, state, and national forums. Communities are encouraged to learn about the winners through the videos and content in the Prize Gallery, rather than contacting winners directly. 

May the primary or alternate contact organizations serve as the Prize recipient and receive the $25,000 award should the community win?  

Yes. The primary or alternate contact may also serve as the Prize recipient so long as the organization satisfies the necessary requirements (i.e., being a local governmental or tax exempt public charity within the community).

Finalist & Site Visit FAQs

When will the site visits take place?

Site visits will take place in April, May, and June 2015.

How will site visits be scheduled?

If your community is selected as a finalist, you will be contacted by RWJF Culture of Health Prize staff, who will ask you to complete a survey (generally within three to five business days of notification) to determine which of the possible site visit dates will work for your community.

How long will site visits last?

Site visitors will be in your community for about 24 hours. The visit itself will take place over two days, typically beginning in the early afternoon of the first day and ending around noon on the second.

How many site visitors will participate?

Each RWJF Culture of Health Prize site visit team will generally have four to six (4-6) members. Site visitors will represent the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, and possibly other national or regional experts in community health improvement.

What happens during a site visit?

The site visit is an opportunity for you to showcase your community's accomplishments and bring life and voice to your paper application. The schedule includes:

  • Day One: The first day typically begins in the early afternoon with a Community Tour and concludes that evening with a Leadership Dinner. The Community Tour may be up to four hours in length, during which community members provide a first-hand introduction of the people and places that bring your community's successes to life. In the evening, site visitors gather with up to six community leaders to talk informally about your community's health improvement vision and journey.
  • Day Two: The second day starts early, with a Community Conversation that generally last about three hours long and during which up to 25 diverse community members participate in a dialogue with site visitors. Directly following the Community Conversation, site visit organizers meet with the site visit team to ask and answer any final questions. Site visits typically conclude by noon on the second day.

More specific guidance on the site visit will be available for those invited to participate in Phase II of the competition.

Who organizes the site visit?

The community will be asked to decide on primary and alternate points of contact for communications with RWJF Culture of Health Prize staff during the site visit phase. An initial request will be extended to the Primary Contact listed on the community's application. These individuals will provide leadership for organizing the three elements of the site visit (Community Tour, Leadership Dinner, and Community Conversation) and will coordinate all logistics with the Prize staff.

Who pays for the site visit?

RWJF Culture of Health Prize site visit team travel expenses (including all meals), van rental (for the Community Tour) and the Leadership Dinner costs will be paid for by the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

May finalist communities offer hospitality in the form of welcome bags or other giftsfor site visitors?

No. Please do not offer welcome bags or other gifts to site visitors. However, site visitors are delighted to receive summary reports and other brief written materials to highlight and build upon what they see and hear during the visit.

How will we be notified if we have won the Prize?

All finalist communities will be notified by email as to whether they have won the Prize. Additional information on the timing of this notification will be provided during the site visit.

What happens if we win?

Lots! RWJF and UWPHI will work collaboratively with you to help prepare for a national event and media outreach around the announcement of the Prize winners. Here are a few of the activities you can anticipate:

  • Your community will be assigned a communications liaison from the RWJF communications team. This person's responsibility is to coordinate all communications and media activities for your community.
  • A video crew will come to your community and film important elements for telling your story.
  • You will work with the communications liaison to prepare media releases.
  • You will identify which members of your community will attend the national RWJF Culture of Health Prize Celebration and Learning Event. RWJF will fund travel for several members of your community to attend the event.
  • During the celebration and learning event, community members in attendance will play a variety of roles, including accepting the Prize on the community's behalf and speaking to media representatives. This event will provide excellent opportunities for learning and networking through engagement with 2013-2015 winners, RWJF and County Health Rankings & Roadmaps leadership and staff, national health leaders, policymakers, funders, and invited guests.

When may we share the good news with our community?

You may share the news with your community after the national unveiling of winners at the celebration and learning event. This means that your good news will be a secret (or embargoed) for several months. Under the terms of the embargo, you may share the news with key members of your community's health improvement leadership team, but not to the general public or the local media. This time will be used for preparing winning communities' videos and other communications, so these materials are ready for sharing at the time winners are announced.  

May we have a local celebration?

Yes. Local celebrations can happen any time after the national announcement. We encourage you to capitalize on the momentum with local celebrations. We will provide a stipend to support your local celebration. At your invitation, staff from RWJF and/or UWPHI will be happy to participate in these local festivities.

What happens after the celebrations?

To raise awareness and inspire locally-driven change across the country, winning communities' success stories will also be shared broadly in a variety of ways including a combination of:

  • Video storytelling;
  • Social, broadcast and print media;
  • Web and online platform postings; and
  • Meeting and conference presentations.

Winning communities will become part of the RWJF Culture of Health Prize alumni community and receive invitations to future Prize events and learning and sharing opportunities to support their ongoing work to improve health.

If a community is chosen as a winner, is it guaranteed to be awarded a prize? 

While the Foundation anticipates that each of the communities selected as a winner will be awarded a prize, the Foundation reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any community or, if applicable, require that the community designate an alternative organization to receive the prize, at any time up until a prize is formally awarded (whether before or after winners are selected or announced) if, for example, an individual or organization named in the application is under investigation for misconduct which might adversely affect the Foundation's reputation.


Last updated 3/1/2015


For more information on the RWJF Culture of Health Prize, please contact:
Carrie Carroll, Deputy Director, RWJF Culture of Health Prize