Call for Proposals Frequently Asked Questions

What is Systems for Action?

Systems for Action (S4A) is a signature research program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) that builds a Culture of Health by rigorously testing new ways of connecting the nation’s fragmented medical, social, and public health systems. Health is shaped by a complex web of social, economic, and environmental conditions that extend far beyond the reach of the medical care system. S4A uses a wide research lens that includes and extends beyond the medical care and public health systems to incorporate social service systems such as housing, transportation, education, employment, food and nutrition assistance, child and family support, criminal and juvenile justice, and economic and community development.

What types of projects are eligible under this Call for Proposals?

This Call for Proposals (CFP) will fund research projects that test innovative mechanisms for aligning the delivery and financing systems for medical, social, and public health services, with a focus on estimating their impact on health and health equity. Research studies supported through S4A must: (1) focus on solutions to high-priority system alignment problems that involve medical, social, and public health services; (2) test the effectiveness of these solutions using rigorous scientific methods; and (3) engage stakeholders from medical, social, and public health systems in the design and conduct of the research to ensure that findings can readily be used in practice. Proposals that focus purely on implementing a strategy, without a strong scientific approach for evaluating the implementation and/or impact of the strategy, will not be funded. 

Should projects focus on all three sectors (medical, social, and public health) or can you focus on only two sectors for alignment?

We are interested in projects that test mechanisms for aligning systems that involve all three sectors. The rationale for this requirement is that all three of these sectors address key determinants of health but often through fragmented rather than coordinated efforts.

What would or would not be considered a system?

Every program, service or intervention is implemented through a delivery system.  A delivery system is the constellation of organizations, people, policies, and resources that allow the program to be implemented for members of the target population.  Similarly, a financing system is the constellation of financial resources, funding mechanisms, funders, and payment policies that support implementation of a program or service.  Applicants should articulate clearly how they define the delivery and/or financing systems to be aligned through their proposed research.

What organizations and activities are considered to be part of the social service sector?

We define the social service sector to include any organization, program or service that works to address fundamental human needs in the community and promote social well-being.  This sector includes organizations and programs that provide education, housing, income support, employment assistance, diversity and inclusion initiatives, food assistance, transportation, child and youth development, recreation and physical activity, legal assistance, disability support services, violence prevention, arts and cultural programming, criminal justice and juvenile justice services, and community and economic development.

What organizations and activities are considered to be part of the medical care sector?

We define the medical sector to include any organization, program, or service that helps individuals obtain access to clinical services that prevent, treat, or manage diseases and injuries, including services for physical health conditions, mental health conditions, substance abuse, and developmental disabilities.  This sector includes the providers, purchasers, and payers of these services as well as the suppliers of associated products and technologies, such as pharmaceutical products and health information technologies.  

What organizations and activities are considered to be part of the public health sector?

We define the public health sector to include any organization, program or activity that works to create the conditions in which people can live healthy lives, including activities to prevent disease and injury and promote health for the population at large.  This sector includes governmental public health agencies working at local, state, and federal levels, as well as nongovernmental organizations that pursue a public health mission. 

What is a System Alignment Mechanism?

An alignment mechanism is an action or set of actions that you believe will help medical, social, and public health systems operate in more integrated and coordinated ways, ultimately leading to improved health and well-being for a defined population group of interest.  See Figure 1 in the Call for Proposals for examples of possible alignment mechanisms. 

What types of organizations are eligible for funding?

Applicants must be either public entities or nonprofit organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and are not private foundations or non-functionally integrated Type Ill supporting organizations. Applicant organizations must be based in the United States or its territories. Awards will be made to organizations, not to individuals.  Multi-organizational consortia are encouraged to apply as long as a single eligible organization is designated as the primary applicant responsible for maintaining consortium agreements with other participating organizations.

Do the eligibility requirements for applicant organizations also apply to partners?

No, but subcontracts or partner relationships with for-profit entities or entities based outside the United States may require additional financial and/or legal due diligence.

Can an organization submit multiple proposals?

Yes, an organization may submit more than one proposal as long as each proposal submitted is distinct in terms of both project and research team.

Can I apply for this opportunity if I have previously been or am currently funded by RWJF?

Yes, previously or currently funded RWJF grantees are eligible to apply for this funding opportunity, but the proposed project must be different from previously funded work.

How will my proposal be evaluated?

Applicants will submit narrative proposals containing the project rationale, significance, approach and information about the project’s budget, staffing, collaborators and institutional support. Applications will be reviewed by an external review panel that includes members of the S4A National Advisory Committee and other subject matter experts. Applicants are encouraged to submit a one-page letter of intent (LOI) providing a preliminary title, a brief description of the proposed research, and a listing of the participating investigators and institutions.  This LOI is not binding and not required, but it ensures that the program office is able to recruit reviewers with appropriate subject matter expertise to review your application thoroughly. See the CFP for the specific review criteria.

Are there any priorities or areas of interest?

The S4A program has identified several specific research topics that are of special interest in the 2018 Call for Proposals (see CFP for more details).  These topics include:

  • System alignment mechanisms that are developed and led by stakeholders outside the public health and medical sectors.
  • System alignment mechanisms designed to change system behavior, not just individual behavior.
  • Innovative financing and payment mechanisms that align medical, social, and public health services, including mechanisms for incentivizing and financing cross-sector collaboration.
  • Systems science methodologies. 

What type of investigators should apply?

We are looking for research teams from diverse health and social service fields that have expertise in all three broad types of delivery and financing systems implicated in the S4A research agenda: (1) medical care; (2) public health; and (3) social and community services and supports. This includes investigators from a variety of areas and disciplines, including but not limited to medicine, public health, social work, sociology, business, economics, education, transportation, housing, criminal justice, communication, public policy, political science, system science, and urban planning and community development.

How can I tell if I am applying to the correct RWJF program?

Within the Foundation’s Research, Evaluation, and Learning initiative, RWJF funds a range of research to expand understanding of what will allow everyone in our nation to have an equitable opportunity to live the healthiest life possible and which types of interventions may have greatest potential for impact. Its four signature research programs, including Systems for Action, work to identify root causes of inequitable health outcomes in America and potential solutions that engage multiple sectors and disciplines.

The Systems for Action (S4A) program, based at the University of Kentucky within the College of Public Health and the Gatton School of Business and Economics, conducts rigorous research on ways to align, coordinate, and integrate the many delivery and financing systems that promote health and well-being on a population-wide basis, including medical, public health, and social services and supports.
The Policies for Action (P4A) program, based at the Urban Institute, investigates how policies, laws, regulatory changes, systems interventions, and community dynamics can be leveraged to support population health, well-being, and equity. P4A is building a robust, actionable evidence base on how these critical levers can advance a Culture of Health, with a goal of delivering these data and insights to key policymakers, community leaders, and other change agents. (Call for Proposals is currently closed.)
The Evidence for Action (E4A) program, based at the University of California, San Francisco, awards grants to encourage and support innovative, rigorous research on the impact of programs, policies, and partnerships on health and well-being, with a particular focus on research that will help advance health equity. It is the broadest of the three programs – it does not have a formal research agenda, and it funds across all areas of the Culture of Health Action Framework. Learn more about E4A’s rolling application process here.
The Health Data for Action (HD4A) program links researchers with valuable health data, and funding research to help answer important, policy-relevant questions.

To learn more about additional current and upcoming RWJF funding opportunities of interest visit the Foundation’s Funding Opportunities page.

If I am not chosen for this funding opportunity can I apply for another RWJF grant opportunity?

Yes, interested applicants may apply for other RWJF grants. You must actively submit to other opportunities in which you are interested as proposals declined by S4A will not automatically be considered by other programs.

What is the deadline for submitting proposals?

Proposals must be submitted through the RWJF Online system by October 10, 2018 at 3:00pm ET. Late applications will not be permitted. You will be required to register at MYRWJF at https://my.rwjf.org before you begin the application process.