case study

Working Toward a Healthier America, County by County

A kid sits on the ground and plays with a stream of water at a splash park.

The Challenge

People across the United States are beginning to realize that there’s a lot more to health than 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, to lead to improved health?

Working with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) 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 and the RWJF Culture of Health Prize.

Our Approach

Burness has supported the CHR&R program since 2009 when the very first Rankings was released. The Rankings show counties how they compare to other counties in their state when it comes to health, and where there might be opportunities for 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, including coaching and a database of evidence-based policies and practices. In 2013, the RWJF Culture of Health Prize was introduced to elevate 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 RWJF, the 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 and the RWJF Culture of Health Prize.

Burness has overseen robust media outreach; policymaker education at the local, state and federal levels; broad engagement with national partners; and vigorous social media efforts. Burness also helps plan signature events in communities, high- lighting the use of CHR&R to improve health, and works 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 also secured meetings with members of Congress on key committees to raise awareness and deepen understanding of the program. As a result, many members have promoted the Rankings through press statements, floor 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 Prize communities to share their insights through blog and commentary series and participation in numerous national conferences, webinars and regional meetings.

Nearly a decade old, 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 healthy lives.

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