You Can’t Buy Much with $18.92—Just Ask RWJF

Eighteen dollars and ninety-two cents. That’s how much, on average, the federal government spends on your public health per year, according to a new report entitled Investing in America's Health: A State-by-State Look at Public Health Funding and Key Health Facts, which was funded by RWJF and published by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Trust for America’s Health. It ain’t much, and what’s worse, the pitifully low number has been stagnant for years.

Compounding matters, state public health funding has been decreasing. States vary widely, and we mean widely, on how much public health funding they approve, ranging from Hawaii’s generous $144.99 per person to Missouri’s miserly $5.86, and of course, that funding or lack thereof trickles down, coloring a state’s public health profile in very real ways.

All this means that private public health funders have a bigger job each year: filling that gap where the federal or state money peters out, but where serious need still exists. Funders working in public health, like W.K. Kellogg, Doris Duke, GBMF, and of course, the inimitable RWJF, swoop in where wise men fear to tread, but often their job is made harder by a lack of public knowledge and awareness of public health issues.

So by funding this project with the Trust for America’s Health, RWJF is simultaneously supporting the dissemination of public health information and awareness, and furthering its own grantmaking agenda. In a lot of ways, this report, the ninth one RWJF has helped support, can serve to bolster RWJF’s public health grantmaking initiatives, proving the need exists for RWJF’s Public Health and Prevention, Childhood Obesity, and Disparities programs.

RWJF throws some $400 million behind its health grantmaking each year, which makes it look like Rich Uncle Pennybags compared to the federal government, and it knows intimately just how immense the need is for public health dollars. Funding this report raises awareness while also helping the health juggernaut strategize its future grantmaking priorities.