Working Toward a Healthier America, County by County

Work with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute

The Challenge

Americans are beginning to realize that there’s a lot more to health than just what happens in the doctor’s office. Where we live, learn, work and play makes a real difference, too.

But can that concept be explained in a clear and concise way, utilizing useful data, and real-life stories, leading to improved health?

Working with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, Burness has done just that by helping to manage a strategic communications campaign around the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps (CHR&R) program.

Our Approach

Burness has supported the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps (CHR&R) program since 2009. The program consists of three main parts. The County Health Rankings show counties how they compare to other counties in their state when it comes to health and where there might be improvement. The rankings offer a snapshot of a county’s health in nearly 30 factors including education, housing, transportation, community safety and more. While the rankings data is important, it is only as meaningful as the action it inspires. The roadmaps part of the program offers communities resources and tools to move from awareness to action. The RWJF Culture of Health Prize honors and elevates communities that have placed a high priority on health and are bringing partners together to drive local change. Prize communities represent solutions-driven leadership at its finest.

Together with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and other partner firms, we have created and executed a comprehensive national communications strategy that ensures yearlong visibility for CHR&R. Burness has overseen robust media outreach; policymaker education at the local, state and federal levels; broad engagement; and vigorous social media efforts. Burness also helped plan signature events in communities, highlighting the use of CHR&R to improve health, and worked closely with RWJF Culture of Health Prize winners to celebrate their good work.

Results and Impact

Over the years, our efforts have helped to place CHR&R in the Washington Post, NPR, ABC News, TIME, Politico, Modern Healthcare, USA Today and hundreds of other national, local and regional outlets.

Burness secured meetings with Members of Congress on key committees to raise awareness and deepen understanding about the CHR&R program. As a result, many members have promoted the rankings through press statements, social media and “Dear Colleague” letters. Members have also taken the opportunity to highlight the innovative work taking place in the prize communities they represent through press statements and letters of support.

We’ve helped arrange innovative ways for the RWJF Culture of Health Prize communities to share their insights, such as the Health Affairs blog series which featured each 2014 prize community. Representatives of prize communities are also helping to shape the national dialogue on health by speaking at numerous national conferences, webinars and regional meetings.

After five years, the CHR&R program is one of the nation’s most important resources for the development of thriving, healthy places. It is inspiring communities to change policies and create more opportunities for all residents to lead a healthy lives.