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

Addressing Challenging Topics through Courageous Conversations

Publication date
November 12, 2019

On November 12, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announced the winners of the 2019 Culture of Health Prize: Broward County, Florida; Gonzales, California; Greenville County, South Carolina; Lake County, Colorado; and Sitka, Alaska. These five communities are working at the forefront of advancing health, opportunity, and equity for all.

From the Florida coast to the Alaskan islands, one unifying theme across the winners’ work is clear—they are all tackling challenging issues in their communities by creating spaces for candid conversations that lead to inclusive action:

  • Broward County, Florida recognizes that for their 1.9 million residents, creating a healthier community means addressing barriers to health, such as discrimination. Through programs like their Dismantling Racism Initiative, this 2019 Prize winner is creating public spaces for difficult conversations about racism that are changing policies and practices to advance equity across the county.
  • With 1 in 3 residents under the age of 18, Gonzales, California, knows its youth are the leaders of both today and tomorrow. Through initiatives like the Gonzales Youth Council—where teens play an active role in shaping town policies and priorities—this 2019 Prize winner is empowering youth to act on their ideas to address challenges affecting their generation and the town as a whole.
  • In Greenville County, South Carolina, residents and leaders are working together to shape solutions and change long-entrenched policies and systems. From increasing public transit options to guiding the creation of downtown Greenville’s new Unity Park to influencing the county’s planning processes through Kitchen Table Conversations, this 2019 winner is ensuring residents are leading the way to create a more equitable community for all.  
  • With 4 in 10 residents identifying as Latinx, Lake County, Colorado found that one of the first steps to creating a more equitable and inclusive community was to address language barriers. By removing these barriers through simultaneous interpretation at community meetings and events, this 2019 Prize winner is creating spaces where both English- and Spanish-speaking voices are heard and a part of the decision making process.
  • In Sitka, Alaska, there is a new spirit of truth and reconciliation that is spurring action to both reduce disparities and heal historical wounds. From the Sitka Tribe of Alaska's and State of Alaska's family reunification efforts to culturally responsive education, the leadership and culture of this island’s indigenous people are infused throughout the community, helping to create a healthier and more inclusive future for all residents.

The five 2019 Prize-winning communities know there is no one-size-fits-all approach to addressing challenging topics like historical trauma or systemic racism. Each one of these winners is building a Culture of Health by tailoring their solutions to fit their community’s unique needs, strengths, and assets.

To learn more about how the 2019 Prize winners are tackling challenging topics and creating spaces for inclusive action, tune into the Courageous Conversations panel, webcast live at 1:30pm on November 12 at

Since 2013, the RWJF Culture of Health Prize has helped honor and elevate communities working at the forefront of advancing health, equity, and opportunity for all. Read each Prize-winning community’s story and learn more about the Prize at



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