National Coordinating Center

The Urban Institute

The Policies for Action program is overseen by the Urban Institute, building on the organization's wealth of experience in health, social, and economic policy, including its cross-center initiative on the social determinants of health.

As the national coordinating center, Urban works in close partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to manage the program and its network of grantees, providing strategic direction, technical assistance and training, and communication and outreach support. Urban also conducts high-impact policy research to complement the growing portfolio of Policies for Action-funded work happening across the country. Current projects include investigations of housing assistance programs, work policies, health care quality and access, income supplements, and more.

Research projects

The US is facing a housing affordability crisis that continues to exacerbate economic and racial inequities. Inclusionary zoning policies (IZ), which require real estate developers to include below market-rate units in new housing projects, and rent control regulations, which place caps on rental price increases, have reemerged as potential solutions to the housing affordability crisis. However, rent control and IZ policies are complicated and controversial. Studies generally find that rent control decreases rents for tenants in controlled units, but that these benefits may be offset by greater costs in the uncontrolled rental market. Likewise, while there is some evidence that IZ policies can provide economic opportunity for residents with low incomes, critics argue that they also reduce the overall supply of housing and serve as a short-term solution to the larger problem.

People who receive vouchers or other forms of federal or local housing assistance are not protected from discrimination by federal fair housing or civil rights laws, and in most places, landlords can legally refuse to rent to voucher holders. Researchers will assess whether and under what conditions state and local protections reduce landlord discrimination and improve the rate at which voucher holders are successful at finding housing.

Greater scheduling predictability may reduce parental stress and increase child care stability, job stability, and income. Researchers will use qualitative and quantitative methods to evaluate the implementation of the Oregon law and analyze the impacts on family and child health outcomes.

Birth outcomes, including infant mortality and low birth weight, are shockingly poor in the U.S. Researchers will assess whether the ACA increased intended pregnancies, reduced prepregnancy smoking, and affected contraception and birth outcomes among women covered by Medicaid--and whether these changes reduced disparities across racial and ethnic groups.

Who We Are


Lisa Dubay, PhD, is a Senior Fellow with the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center and co-directs Urban’s cross-center initiative on the social determinants of health. Dr. Dubay is a nationally recognized expert on the Medicaid and CHIP programs, and is currently involved in major evaluations of delivery system reform.


Laudan (Laudy) Aron, MA, is a Senior Fellow with the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center and co-directs Urban’s cross-center initiative on the social determinants of health. Her work focuses on how social welfare programs and policies can best support healthy human development across the life course and over time and place.

Deputy Director

Katie Deming, MS, is a Technical Assistance Specialist with the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center. As P4A's Deputy Director, she oversees the program’s operations, evaluation, and grant management processes.

Communications Manager

Nyequai Harte is the Communications Manager for health equity, well-being, and safety net initiatives at the Urban Institute.

Program Manager

Joshua Smith serves as a Project Administrator with the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center, focusing on proposal development, consultant agreements, and budgeting.