The country’s health needs are rising as the population ages.

At more than 4 million strong, nurses are the largest part of the health care workforce, and a powerful force capable of helping more Americans become and stay healthy.

Seeking to tap that great potential is the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, the synthesis of three mission-oriented organizations: AARP Foundation, AARP, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is the nation’s largest philanthropy dedicated solely to improving health and health care. Its focus areas include fostering healthy communities, enabling children to grow up at a healthy weight, cultivating leaders to ensure an engaged, ample workforce, and transforming health and health care. The Foundation is working with many others across different sectors to build a Culture of Health that allows everyone to live the healthiest lives they can.

Nursing is a strong part of AARP as well. When AARP created the Center to Champion Nursing in America in 2007 with a $10 million grant from RWJF, its mission was to see that Americans have the nurses they need, now and in the future. Housed in AARP’s Public Policy Institute, the Center to Champion Nursing in America seeks to answer the need for Americans to have access—in all settings—to highly skilled nurses. The fact that AARP and its state affiliates serve millions of consumers made it an ideal organization to join with RWJF to talk to Americans about nursing, as well as to hear from consumers.

In 2008, RWJF worked in partnership with the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to convene an independent study of nursing’s role in transforming health care. Two years later, the IOM produced The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, a report that sees the nursing profession as central to efforts to remake the health care system and provide Americans better access to the care they need. The report offered recommendations to strengthen nursing to improve Americans’ health and health care—recommendations directed at health care organizations and providers, policymakers, businesses, and educators.

Shortly after the report was published, AARP Foundation, AARP, and RWJF joined forces to create the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, coordinated by the Center to Champion Nursing in America, with a director at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a co-leader, a chief strategist, at AARP. The Campaign includes Action Coalitions in every state and Washington, DC.

The IOM’s original recommendations are what the Campaign and its Action Coalitions use to measure success in building a healthier nation through nursing. Five years after its report was released, the IOM provided a progress report that urged greater efforts be made especially on diversity and data collection, as well as to expand to include more groups outside of nursing. The Campaign is also pivotal to realizing RWJF’s vision to build a Culture of Health. That is a mission that nurses understand well—indeed, one they embraced the day they chose to become nurses—and are uniquely able to fulfill.