Santa Monica has been named one of seven winners of the 2016 RWJF Culture of Health Prize awarded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The Prize honors communities for their efforts to ensure all residents have the opportunity to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives. Santa Monica Mayor Tony Vazquez joined City Manager Rick Cole, Assembly member Richard Bloom, Mobility Manager Francie Stefan

and community members who played an active role in the application process at a press conference this week.

The event was held at the intersection of 2nd and Arizona Streets in the middle of the nationally-recognized Downtown Santa Monica Farmers Market on a newly painted creative all-way crosswalk, the next evolution of the City’s complete mobility network.

“This honor reflects our community’s decades-long work to create a city that works for everyone, especially the most vulnerable,” said Vazquez. “From increasing the minimum wage and our hands on approach to addressing homelessness to using data to measure the wellbeing of our community, building a culture of health is part of the Santa Monica ethos.”

Santa Monica is being recognized for bringing partners together to rally around a shared vision of health, drawing especially on the wisdom, voice, and experience of residents themselves. Chosen from nearly 200 applicant communities across the country, Santa Monica’s standout efforts include a sustained commitment to providing affordable housing, leading the region in addressing homelessness with compassion, its “do whatever it takes” approach to helping children and families thrive, and using data to transform local government to understand and improve community wellbeing. In particular, efforts that stood out to RWJF included:

Adding 1,720 units of affordable housing since 1982 even in the face of eliminated redevelopment funds, creating opportunities for individuals to increase their economic resilience, including increasing the minimum wage to $15 by 2020, addressing homelessness with compassion through a Housing First approach to homelessness and use of data to focus services on most vulnerable, expanding use of data to whatever it takes to address challenges faced by children and families, as well as overall improving overall community wellbeing, increasing equitable funding for high quality public education and facilities, making significant progress to advance a complete mobility network through Expo Line, Big Blue Bus, Breeze Bike Share, pedestrian safety improvements, and Safe Routes to Schools, and cultivating an engaged community through neighborhood involvement at the Virginia Avenue Park campus.

“I am honored and proud to represent a city that possesses the deepest commitment to the health and wellbeing of our community,” said Congressman Ted Lieu (D-33). “Through collaborations and partnerships with community stakeholders, the city explores ways to increase wages, tackle homelessness, promote affordable housing and improve education. I look forward to continued work with the City of Santa Monica to find new and innovative ways to expand community engagement and further improve the overall health of our community.”

Santa Monica will join a network of Prize-winning communities that will have their inspiring stories shared with other cities across the nation. The other six winning communities for 2016 are: 24:1 Community in the St. Louis area of Missouri; Columbia Gorge Region of Oregon and Washington; Louisville, Kentucky; Manchester, New Hampshire; Miami-Dade County, Florida; and the Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe in Washington.

“The RWJF Culture of Health Prize communities show us that in towns and regions across the nation, individuals are coming together to find powerful ways to help people achieve the best health possible. These communities are connecting the dots between health and education, jobs, housing, and community safety,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, RWJF president and CEO. “We’re privileged to learn from this growing network of communities that offer hope for the wellbeing of the entire nation.”

To become an RWJF Culture of Health Prize winner, Santa Monica had to demonstrate how it excelled in the following six criteria:

  • Defining health in the broadest possible terms.
  • Committing to sustainable systems changes and policy-oriented long-term solutions.
  • Cultivating a shared and deeply-held belief in the importance of equal opportunity for health.
  • Harnessing the collective power of leaders, partners, and community members.
  • Securing and making the most of available resources.
  • Measuring and sharing progress and results.

“Santa Monica is a shining example of what can be achieved when a community sets ambitious goals to improve the health and wellbeing of all its residents, and works with vision and focus to achieve them. I am so proud to live in a city that is committed to wellness in every aspect of our lives,” said Senator Ben Allen.

Learn more about Santa Monica’s work, as well as this year’s other Prize winners through a collection videos, photos, and more at

  • Submitted by Constance Farrell, Santa Monica Community Information Officer.