About Community Health Leaders

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) established the Community Health Leaders program (CHL) in 1991 to recognize individuals who overcome daunting obstacles to improve health and health care in their communities. Since 1993 the CHL Award has been presented to 206 individuals. Currently they reside in 45 states and Puerto Rico.


The mission of CHL is to support and sustain the capacity of individuals who demonstrate creativity, innovation, and commitment to improving health outcomes at the community level.


The goals for CHL include:

  • Increasing the visibility and exposure of the leaders and their work to the nation;
  • Enhancing and enriching leadership skills for the leaders;
  • Increasing opportunities for the leaders to establish new relationships and expand their influence to improve health outcomes in communities.


The Community Health Leaders Award features:

  • A financial award of$125,000: $105,000 to enhance the leader's work, and $20,000 as  a direct award for the leader's accomplishments;
  • National recognition and presentation;
  • Participation in an annual meeting with other leaders;
  • Scholarships and sponsorships to attend meetings and conferences;
  • Peer-exchange meetings focusing on specific issues;
  • Technical assistance through consultation, phone, and video conferencing and connections to other resources; and
  • Participation in work groups to explore health care issues affecting communities.


The National Program Office announces a Call for Nominations each year. The Call for Nominations lists specific criteria and qualifications and describes the selection process, including deadlines for letters of intent, and guidelines for the actual nomination.

General criteria include:

  • Innovation in starting or enhancing efforts to improve access to care and the health of their community
  • Mid-career level with a record of accomplishment
  • Little significant national recognition for their work
  • Citizens or permanent residents of the U.S. or its territories at the time of the nomination deadline
  • Be affiliated with a public or nonprofit organization that is tax-exempt under Section 501C3 of the Internal Revenue Code

Nominations for CHL can be made by health care consumers, community leaders, government employees, health care providers, and others.


CHL is guided by a National Advisory Committee of past recipients and national leaders with extensive experience in a wide variety of health care responsibilities

The CHL National Program Office Staff is located at the Harris Foundation in Houston, TX, providing support to the leaders and the NAC, and providing opportunities for increased communication across the spectrum of RWJF programs.

For a downloadable brochure, click here.

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