TITLE: Senior Program Officer/Senior Scientist
FUNDING AREAS: Major causes of behavioral issues leading to preventable death, chronic diseases, childhood obesity, tobacco control
CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)
IP TAKE: As senior scientist and program officer, Orleans controls the checkbook for more than $375 million in active RWJF grants. A psychologist by training, she focuses on the intersection of behavior and public health, with an eye toward addressing the environmental and societal factors that contribute to childhood obesity and tobacco use in the United States.
PROFILE: The first thing to know about Tracy Orleans: The woman does not slow down in her commitment to improving American health and wellness—or in her life generally. Orleans' CV must go on for pages and pages. A (small) sampling of her past and ongoing accomplishments: leadership positions at more than a dozen national public health programs (with a focus on tobacco-use cessation); authorship or coauthorship of more than 200 health-related publications; service on various editorial boards, scientific panels, and advisory groups; an executive gig at Johnson & Johnson Applied Behavioral Technologies; numerous research positions (including at the National Institutes of Health, the University of North Carolina, and Duke); a PhD in clinical psychology; and a family life that includes being married to another high achiever, two children, baseball games, and vacations to the Outer Banks. Presumably, Orleans also sleeps.
At the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), Orleans leads the foundation's efforts to develop "science-based strategies" to address the causes behind preventable death and chronic disease. In particular, Orleans is focused on childhood obesity and tobacco use. Curbing the rates of childhood obesity and tobacco use has tremendous public health implications; each of these risky scenarios, if successfully addressed, can improve an individual's health outlook (and health-care cost considerations) dramatically over the course of his or her life. Given the prevalence of childhood obesity and smoking and the costs they impose on American society, Orleans's work has the capacity to improve long-term health outlooks for the millions affected by these preventable but dangerous health afflictions.
RWJF devotes millions of dollars a year to fighting both childhood obesity and tobacco smoking. While many of RWJF's grants are in the tens-of-thousands-of-dollars range, some of the larger preventable death-related projects the foundation has funded recently include:
- $1.8 million to the University of North Carolina public health school for the "Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities" program, which aims to alter environments for children in a way that encourages healthy habits and discourages childhood obesity
- $12 million to the national Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
- $9.8 million to the American Heart Association for advocacy to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic
RWJF continues to solicit grant proposals in many health-related areas. Relevant information on the application process is here.
While Orleans' responsibilities are many and the challenges she seeks to address are large, she maintains an optimistic and innovative outlook on improving public health in the United States. Her "bold" idea for transforming health care in this country? "Make health more fun/sexy." And with the national, behavior-targeting campaigns she is helping to fund, Orleans is indeed realizing the idea of making healthy lifestyles more enjoyable and attractive.