July 28th, 2011
This interesting and readable report is on the website of the Maternal Health Task Force, which I describe below. I thought the report was a must-read for grant-seekers in global health.
Following are some highlights from the report with a few added comments of my own and some relevant links.
Just a few funders are “highly focused” on maternal health, according to the report, whose title is U.S. Maternal Health Donors: A Landscape Analysis. The main ones to know about are the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Others include the Fistula Foundation, Liya Kebede Foundation, and Preeclampsia Foundation, which are actually charities (not normally covered in GrantWatch). So, the field of donors is small, the report says.
The Maternal Health Task Force contracted with Global Health Visions (which is based in Brooklyn, New York) to do a thorough review of current non-governmental organization (NGO) donors in maternal health. The focus of the research was on private foundations, corporate donors, and individuals. Global Health Visions compiled its information by doing a literature review, online research, and forty interviews with various stakeholders. Research was also conducted at the Washington, D.C., office of the Foundation Center.
For those readers who may not know, the Maternal Health Task Force serves as a catalyst for addressing maternal health issues. (Funded by the Gates Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation, the task force is managed by the nonprofit EngenderHealth, which is a leading international reproductive health group striving to improve the quality of health care in the world’s poorest communities.) Global Health Visions is a consulting group that provides strategic guidance on formulating and implementing global health and development initiatives, according to its website.
Now, let me get back to the report itself. If one includes funders that focus on other global health and development issues but fund some maternal health activities or indirectly benefit maternal health, then Global Health Visions researchers found they had more latitude as to which grantmakers they could add to the list of maternal health funders. In this category, the report lists the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (it funds maternal health projects in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as in the United States) , the Segal Family Foundation, and others.
As an aside, the Segal Family Foundation, located in Watchung, New Jersey, focuses its efforts on sub-Saharan Africa and includes information about submitting proposals. (I found out from the foundation’s executive director that it is a private, family foundation.) The foundation also has a blog, which I will add to the GrantWatch Blogroll. The Segal Family Foundation says it “has been around for a few years,” but I had not heard of it until I read the Maternal Health Task Force’s report.
Now, back to the report: It also includes in this second category (of funders that support global health and development but are not exclusively devoted to maternal health) the William J. Clinton Foundation, which is a charity. Please note that this nonprofit started by President Clinton does not accept proposals at this time and does not make grants, according to its website. (Also, the Clinton Health Access Initiative is now a separate nonprofit from the Clinton Foundation.)
And if one further broadens the list of potential maternal health funders to grantmakers that have a program area on reproductive health and population issues, you can then include funders such as the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Ford Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the report says. This is because some projects they fund may actually relate to maternal health, the report points out.
The report also has a section on corporate donors that have a strong focus on maternal health. The stand-outs in this category, according to the report, are Abbott Laboratories (a multifaceted health care company, which produces pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and more) and Johnson & Johnson.
“One of the obstacles to forming a cohesive approach” to addressing maternal health is the lack of agreement on what should or should not be included under the maternal health category, the report notes. “The clearest example of this is the inclusion or exclusion of family planning (FP) and abortion.” See section II of the report, “Defining Maternal Health.”
In addition, the report discusses trends in maternal health (for example, use of mobile devices to send text messages containing health information to women) and gaps in maternal health funding. According to people interviewed for the report, funding is needed for basic training of health workers, family planning, safe abortion, and other areas. Global Health Visions points out that there is also “a geographic funding gap”: Latin America, the Caribbean region, and francophone Africa are “largely neglected.”
Finally, the report discusses the pros and cons of donors forming a maternal health donor affinity group. (Grantmakers In Health, which many of you are familiar with, is an example of an affinity group.) As an example of a “con” or obstacle, Global Health Visions says that its “interviews revealed that corporate donors would be resistant to participating in such a group if one of the goals is to request additional financial commitments from them.” This sounds odd, but it is because “companies are bound by their profits and losses.”
The report’s researchers conclude that creating some sort of forum for addressing critical gaps in maternal health funding “and building on positive trends could have a significant impact on efforts to increase investments in and improve policies for maternal health.” They suggest a few ways to get people together to talk.
This April 2011 report, U.S. Maternal Health Donors is available online. I have just scratched the surface here—the report contains much more good information.
Read more insights in a May 24 post by Christopher Lindhal on the Maternal Health Task Force’s MHTF Blog.
Read more about the Maternal Health Task Force’s work in the GrantWatch Outcomes column, in the August 2011 issue of Health Affairs (release date: August 4.)