Supreme Court Arguments on the ACA: Foundation-Funded Materials to Aid Understanding


March 27th, 2012

As most people have heard, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments this week (March 26-28) on the constitutionality of various aspects of the Affordable Care Act of 2010. People have scrambled for seats at the court, and, according to what I heard in a news report, some have paid others to stand in line to get one of those sought-after seats. GrantWatch readers may be interested to see what content some of the foundations have produced to help the public understand the issues.

The issues are complex. I found this March 2012 Health Affairs article, “The ‘Sleeper’ Issues before the Supreme Court As It Reviews the Affordable Care Act,” helpful. Although much of the focus has been on whether the so-called individual mandate (the federal government calls this the “individual responsibility” provision) is constitutional or not, author T.R. Goldman cautions that three additional issues “are equally consequential.”

In a nutshell, here are the issues that Goldman neatly describes:

* Can the Supreme Court decide in 2012 about the constitutionality of the individual mandate, or must it wait until 2015 when the first penalty is assessed on people who do not sign up for health insurance? However, the court must first decide if that required payment is a penalty or a tax. If the court deems it a tax, citizens cannot sue until after the first tax is imposed in 2015.

* Can the rest of the Affordable Care Act stand on its own if the individual mandate is ruled unconstitutional? In other words, is it all or nothing?

* Under the Medicaid expansion called for in the Affordable Care Act, are states being unconstitutionally forced to cover many of the uninsured?

A transcript and audio files of the arguments heard March 26 are available here, on the Supreme Court website. Here is the link to the files for today, March 27.

As Goldman’s article notes, the justices are expected to decide on these four issues by late June 2012.

A Sampling of Informational Resources from Foundations

* “Beyond the Health Care Arguments: The Waiting Games,” Jane Norman of CQ HealthBeat (March 23) in the Commonwealth Fund’s March 26 Washington Health Policy Week in Review weekly newsletter. (As a public service under licensing rights it holds, Commonwealth provides selected articles, from CQ HealthBeat, for this newsletter.) Norman’s interesting article discusses possible scenarios and timetables.

* “Nixing Medicaid Expansion Would Leave Millions Uninsured Below the Poverty Line,” by John Reichard of CQ HealthBeat (March 21) in the Commonwealth Fund’s March 26 Washington Health Policy Week in Review weekly newsletter. (As a public service under licensing rights it holds, Commonwealth provides selected articles, from CQ HealthBeat, for this newsletter.) Suppose the Supreme Court blocks the Medicaid expansion, but the rest of the law stays intact? Could be a “political bombshell,” as one interviewee in Reichard’s article says.

* “A Reporter’s Guide to the Supreme Court Arguments on Health Reform,” webcast and transcript of a March 15 briefing sponsored by the Alliance for Health Reform, a nonpartisan, not-for-profit group, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Speakers included Lyle Denniston, the “dean of Supreme Court reporters” (this journalist has covered the high court for fifty-two years!), who now writes for SCOTUSblog. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) provided the webcast, podcast, and videos of individual speakers’ presentations. The alliance lists numerous source materials.

* “A Guide to the Supreme Court’s Review of the 2010 Health Care Reform Law,” KFF January 2012 policy brief prepared by MaryBeth Musumeci.

* “The Health Reform Law’s Medicaid Expansion: A Guide to the Supreme Court Arguments,” KFF March 2012 policy brief prepared by MaryBeth Musumeci.

* “Policy and Political Implications of the Supreme Court Case on the Affordable Care Act,” webcast and transcript of a March 14 KFF briefing. Speakers included Sheila Burke, faculty member, John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and senior public policy advisor at Baker, Donelson, Caldwell and Berkowitz; Chris Jennings, president, Jennings Policy Strategies, Inc.; and Diane Rowland, KFF executive vice president.

* New York State Health Foundation hosted a conversation on March 15 with Abbe Gluck, associate professor of law and Milton Handler fellow at Columbia (University) Law School, about the issues before the Supreme Court. Go here to read more and view Gluck’s slides.

* “Supreme Court Hears First Issue: Jurisdiction,” March 26 news article by Christine Vestal on Stateline, the Pew Charitable Trusts’ nonpartisan, nonprofit online news service.

* “Can Congress Require Everyone to Have Health Insurance?” March 27 news article by Christine Vestal on Stateline.

Related GrantWatch Blog content:

“Why a California Foundation Filed an Amicus Brief with the U.S. Supreme Court,” by Robert K. Ross, president of the California Endowment, February 1.

*Don’t forget to check out our sister blog, Health Affairs Blog—this week it is publishing posts, by various legal scholars, about the issues before the Supreme Court.*

Tidbits from the Grantmakers In Health Annual Meeting: Health Equity, Social Determinants of Health


March 26th, 2012

I always enjoy my annual trip to Grantmakers In Health’s (GIH’s) big conference. This year I did not have far to go—Baltimore. So, here is my “reporter’s notebook,” as Katie Couric would say. In this round-up post, I mention some interesting things I heard at the opening speech by GIH’s president and CEO and at two plenary sessions at this conference held earlier this month.

After David Gould of the United Hospital Fund gave a wonderful farewell tribute to Lauren LeRoy, who has announced she would be stepping down in October from the leadership of GIH, she announced that it was GIH’s thirtieth anniversary. She then mentioned the hot issues in health policy and health care that have come up over that time span. These include the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), obesity, health disparities, social determinants of health, the Affordable Care Act of 2010, and the growth of retail clinics. She mentioned to us that baby boomers (yikes, I am in that age group!) are entering Medicare at a rate of 10,000 boomers per day!

LeRoy also noted that quality of care and access to care are suboptimal, especially for minorities, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. On the brighter side, people with HIV/AIDS now have a longer life expectancy compared with life expectancy in the early 1980s. And the number of primary care providers in the National Health Service Corps is up markedly since 2008.

The words “disparities” and “equity” are rarely mentioned in foundations’ mission statements, LeRoy commented. Perhaps funders are afraid to discuss these topics—they are like the “elephants in the room,” she said.

And many foundation presidents are retiring. This could be challenging, she said, as there is not much “succession planning”—that is, grooming younger staffers to take up the mantle.

Speaker Alan Weil of the National Academy for State Health Policy was the first outside speaker up at the conference. He delivered the opening plenary speech on the question of “Is Equity an Attainable Health System Goal?” He first mentioned the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s 2009 National Healthcare Disparities Report; the problems seemed intractable. He also mentioned the October 2011 issue of Health Affairs, a thematic issue devoted to health disparities. In his speech, Weil included some reasons to be optimistic about making progress on solving the health equity problem in the United States and his suggestions of what foundations can do to help.

Some tidbits from Weil’s speech on March 7: 

* Racial disparities in care go away when people are really sick.

* Among the reasons for optimism that health equity will improve in the future are that states are working to build medical homes in low-income areas; several provisions of the Affordable Care Act will help (such as increased funding for community health centers); and the health care delivery system is “primed for reform” (meaning that hospitals, physicians, and other components of the health care system are ready to reorganize and work together in ways that improve quality of care and reduce costs).

* However, challenges include underinvestment in health promotion and disease prevention, underinvestment in public health, and administrative waste.

* As for foundations’ role, Weil asked: Are they willing to ask if Medicare and Medicaid are spending public funds efficiently? If they are not willing to look at those questions, then these programs are at risk of across-the-board spending cuts.

* Can foundations acknowledge that physicians are scrutinized for the medical decisions they make? Can funders hear a cry for malpractice reform?

* He concluded by saying that to eliminate health disparities, we must create a health care system that is equitable, as well as efficient.

In the Q & A session, Weil was asked his thoughts on what the U.S. Supreme Court would decide about the Affordable Care Act. He said he thinks that the federal health reform law will be upheld. However, he said that his “greatest fear” is that the impending court decision and the 2012 elections will not eliminate the uncertainty about the future of health reform and that those who oppose reform will continue to have an excuse for not moving forward.

Angela Glover Blackwell of PolicyLink spoke the next day (March 8) at another plenary session. She said that everything begins and ends with health. For example, your income affects your health status, and where you live affects your total years of life. She mentioned an effort in Pennsylvania to help areas without grocery stores at which one can buy fresh fruits and vegetables (these areas are often called “food deserts”). Such deserts are a problem in both urban and rural areas.

She urged foundations to “bring the voices of those left behind” onto their boards and staffs and into their decision making. Making her point, she said “Get out of your comfort zone!”

In the Q & A session, an attendee from the REACH Healthcare Foundation (based in the Kansas City area) asked what are the implications for foundations that have a health mission (the questioner called these “traditional health foundations”). Blackwell said that if a funder is really concerned, it would have to “get out of its usual funding cycle.” In other words, she said, health access and health reform, often supported by such foundations, remain important funding areas. But don’t fund solely in those areas, she suggested to the audience of foundation staffers; focus more on disease prevention and reduction of health care costs, she said.

Also, see my March 14 post on the plenary speech by Derek Yach (of PepsiCo) at the GIH meeting. The title is “Private Industry and Public Health: How Foundations Can Collaborate with Corporations.”

People Post: Board Appointments & Comings and Goings at Foundations, plus an Award Winner


March 21st, 2012

Periodically, I do a people post here, similar to the class notes in an alumni magazine! Find out whatever became of that person who was your program officer or who sat next to you at a conference.

Gwyn Barley has been named director of programs for the Colorado Trust. In this position, she will be in charge of day-to-day management of the Program Department’s grantmaking, grants management and policy-related activities to advance the foundation’s objectives of helping to expand health coverage and to improve and increase access to health care for all Coloradans. Barley, who started at the trust January 9, spent much of her career at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Linda Burnes Bolton has been elected to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s board of trustees. A registered nurse, she is vice president for nursing, chief nursing officer, and director of nursing research at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Burnes Bolton is among the principal investigators at Cedars-Sinai’s Burns and Allen Research Institute, which does clinical research.

Owen Heleen, a long-time foundation staffer, has been hired as chief strategy officer at the Providence Center, a nonprofit that provides mental health and substance use services and “gives people the tools they need to succeed,” according to a February press release. The center’s locations are in and around Providence, Rhode Island. Heleen’s previous job was senior director of grant making at the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, where he was responsible for launching the Making Health Care Affordable program. Before that, he worked at the Rhode Island Foundation for eleven years, where his most recent position was vice president of grant programs. While there, he was responsible for its initiative that focuses on building a stronger system of primary health care, the release said.

Kathleen C. Hittner, a physician, has been appointed to the Rhode Island Foundation’s board of directors. She is senior vice president of community health at the not-for-profit Lifespan System and senior vice president of its perioperative services. Rhode Island Hospital and the Miriam Hospital founded Lifespan, the state’s first health system, in 1994. This integrated system is affiliated with Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School.

Sandra J. Martínez has been appointed director of public policy at the California Wellness Foundation. She most recently was the program director for special projects at the foundation. She has worked there since 2002. In a press release, Martínez commented, “I am excited about the opportunity to use my knowledge, skills and experience to oversee Foundation-wide public policy activities and identify emerging heath policy issues” to strengthen the policy aspects of the grant-making program at Wellness and advance the foundation’s mission. Martinez was in the first class of Grantmakers In Health’s (GIH’s) Terrance Keenan Institute for Emerging Leaders in Health Philanthropy.

Velma Monteiro-Tribble has joined the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida Foundation as its director of grants and programs. Most recently, she was chief operating officer and assistant treasurer of the Alcoa Foundation, one of the largest corporate foundations in the United States, according to its web site. Monteiro-Tribble also worked at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for five years.

Margaret O’Bryon, president and chief executive officer of the Consumer Health Foundation, received GIH’s 2012 Terrance Keenan Leadership Award this month at the organization’s annual meeting in Baltimore. According to GIH, under O’Bryon’s leadership, the Consumer Health Foundation “whose mission is to achieve health justice through activities that advance the health and well-being of historically underserved communities, established itself as an activist philanthropy taking its cues from the community.” I heard her March 8 speech. Among her recommendations to foundation staffers in attendance were to lead with an “explicit set of values.” She also recommended using a “systems approach”—for example, when foundation staff worked with residents of a Latino neighborhood (in the Washington, D.C., area, where the foundation funds), they found that jobs, housing, and immigration status were all interconnected with health.

Abby O’Neill, formerly vice president for communications and programs at the Fannie E. Rippel Foundation, has become a part-time communications and events management consultant to the foundation, effective February 1.

Related resource:

“Turnover on the Rise in Pivotal Foundation Jobs,” Chronicle of Philanthropy, March 4. See this Council on Foundations graphic on program office turnover.

Ever Thought About Working in Health Philanthropy? Check out These Openings.


March 16th, 2012

Here are some openings that I found today on various foundations’ web sites and by word of mouth. Positions range from foundation presidents to a program assistant!

Three Foundations Are Seeking New Presidents

The Commonwealth Fund, as many of you know, is seeking a new president, because its long-time and well-known president, Karen Davis, is stepping down at the end of 2012. More information and a job description are available here. The fund, which is based in New York City, aims to complete its search for a new leader by mid-2012. “The successful candidate for this position will be a recognized and widely respected leader in health care policy and practice in the United States,” the description notes.

The Endowment for Health, located in Concord, New Hampshire, is also seeking a new president. (Jim Squires retired in December; Mary Vallier-Kaplan is serving as interim president. Read more here.) The foundation says, “A strategic thinker with excellent management skills,” the ideal candidate for president “will understand how to work at the intersection of philanthropy, policy and communications, and will be driven by a strong commitment to the Foundation’s mission.” Here is a job description on the web site of the search firm being used. The endowment’s communications director told me that interviews will likely start in April or May.

The Northwest Health Foundation (NWHF), located in Portland, Oregon, seeks a new president. Its founding president, Thomas Aschenbrener, is retiring in the summer of 2012. Health advocacy is among the five responsibilities of NWHF’s leader. Also, the foundation seeks someone who is a “visionary with a bias for action,” a strategic thinker, and a person of integrity. Read more in this description of both the position and the foundation. To apply, suggest a candidate, or ask questions, send e-mail to nwhf@BoardWalk360.net.

Other types of positions open

The California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF), based in Oakland, has an opening for a senior program officer, CHCF Health Innovation Fund. Through this fund, the foundation identifies “opportunities to invest in businesses—revenue-generating nonprofits and for-profits—that share [its] mission to lower the cost of care and to improve access [to care] for the people of California.” A minimum of ten years of relevant experience, understanding of the health care field, and knowledge of the California health care market are among the various qualifications sought. See the job description here. Another page tells you general information about working for this foundation.

The Aetna Foundation, located in Hartford, Connecticut, is looking for a Program Officer. To obtain information on the position, go to the “Search Openings” page, type in the req. number 6542BR in the box that says “Auto req ID,” and then click “Search.” For general information about working at Aetna, visit this web page.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has an opening for a Program Officer for the Food and Community grant-making portfolio. Qualifications for the ideal candidate include having “a current understanding of the broad social and economic forces surrounding food systems and access, sustainable agriculture and public health.” The foundation focuses its efforts on children. Kellogg is based in Battle Creek, Michigan. Please see the program officer job description here. Applications are due no later than April 1.

Interested in global health? The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has an opening for a position called program officer–Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria. This position is located in the foundation’s Seattle headquarters. The person selected for the position will work with other Gates Foundation staffers to ensure that the foundation’s work with the Global Fund “supports the foundation’s strategic priorities for the three diseases” mentioned. On its list of qualifications, the foundation notes that “an advanced degree in public health, public policy, political science, economics, or a related field is desired.” Ability to travel, domestically and internationally, up to 35 percent of the time, is among the other qualifications.

The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati mentions two internship opportunities on its web site. One begins in June; the other starts in September. Both internships run for twelve months. From what I read, the foundation seeks master’s or doctoral students at area colleges and universities. (As you may know, Cincinnati is in southern Ohio and is near Kentucky.) Interns, who work twenty hours a week, receive partial tuition reimbursement and an hourly wage. One of the advantages of being an intern is that you will receive exposure to health policy work, the foundation says.

The Blue Shield of California Foundation, which funds statewide, has an opening for a Communications Associate. The job involves communicating about this San Francisco-based funder’s activities though use of traditional methods and social media. Willingness to travel extensively, mostly in the state of California, is among the various requirements. Here is a position description.

The California Wellness Foundation (TCWF) has an opening in its Woodland Hills office. It is for the executive assistant to the president and chief executive officer position. The foundation has a relatively new leader, Diana Bontá.  (For this position, a bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience is preferred.)

Please verify all information with the employers listed.

Private Industry and Public Health: How Foundations Can Collaborate with Corporations


March 14th, 2012

Derek Yach, senior vice president for global health and agriculture policy at PepsiCo, was one of the plenary speakers at the recent Grantmakers In Health (GIH) Annual Meeting, held in Baltimore. A strategist, Yach previously has held positions at the Rockefeller Foundation, Yale University, and the World Health Organization (WHO). His remarks provided “food for thought” (excuse the pun). Yach, who holds a medical degree and a master’s degree in public health, serves on several advisory boards, including the Clinton Global Initiative.

Speaking on March 9 at the Grantmakers In Health meeting, Yach began by mentioning the contributions of two foundations, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Rockefeller Foundation (where he was director of global health) to Baltimore, site of the GIH meeting.

Yach described the work of the PepsiCo Foundation, at the worldwide food and beverage company at which he works. Most recently, this funder has supported community-based interventions to prevent chronic diseases and reduce obesity within the United States, as well as in China, India, and Mexico.

Acknowledging the critics of PepsiCo and other similar companies who “question whether these philanthropic investments by [such] a company are an effort to divert attention away from health and nutrition issues and from efforts under way to address chronic disease prevention” by governments, foundations represented at the GIH conference, and the United Nations, he had a ready response to them.

In Yach’s view, such critics “underestimate the public benefit” that stems from the PepsiCo Foundation’s support for community-based research and action aimed at improving child health and preventing chronic diseases. It is hard for companies marketing to consumers “to shift consumer behavior built up over decades,” he commented. And the critics may not be aware of how “companies are increasingly embedding societal needs into the cost and practice of business.”

According to such thinkers as Michael Porter and Mark Kramer, Yach explained, this is called “creating shared value.” What does that phrase mean? Societal needs are “deeply embedded, funded, and executed within the daily operations of [a] company [and are] linked to the way executives are compensated and the way companies report on their progress,” he noted.

At PepsiCo (at the company and its foundation), its president and chief executive officer, Indra Nooyi, calls this Performance with Purpose. (Her bio defines it as doing “what’s right for the business by doing what’s right for people and the planet.”) “Specific goals explicitly address the needs of public health,” such as aims to reduce salt, sugar, and saturated fats in products, and, at the same time, increase the proportion of healthier products sold, such as ones based on grains, fruits and vegetables, legumes, and in some localities, dairy, Yach said. Company policies “restrict the marketing of products that do not meet certain nutrition criteria to kids,” and soon, the company will eliminate the direct sale of full-calorie beverages at schools worldwide, Yach announced.

Yach commented that there are trade-offs “at almost every step.” For example, marketing more dairy products could mean production of more methane gas and that would “threaten our greenhouse gas goals.” And manufacturing products in smaller portions possibly will increase trash that ends up in landfills.

Ironically, the company also faces critics from the investment community, who question the “push into healthier foods.” This may stem from Campbell Soup’s unsuccessful effort to lower salt content, “only to find that consumer demand [for such products] is not quite there yet,” he commented.

Yach recommended three ways that foundations and the public sector could join with PepsiCo to reach common goals.

The first is to have “more incentives and fewer mandates,” he said. He urged foundations to support policy, analytic, and advocacy work that highlights “the power of incentives to align public and corporate actions toward common goals.” He cited the example of the Public Health Law and Policy organization, which has received funding from the American Legacy, California Wellness, Robert Wood Johnson, and Kresge Foundations. (The California Endowment, California HealthCare Foundation, state government agencies, and others have also funded it.) The group’s fact sheet “Putting Business to Work for Health: Incentive Policies for the Private Sector” came out in February.

The second recommendation is to form “smarter partnerships with measurable public health goals.” Going it alone is not effective, Yach said, and partnerships make achieving goals easier. Mentioning the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (a group including food companies, restaurants, and others) as an example, he urged foundations that fund obesity prevention to consider participating in this effort to reduce child obesity. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is funding an independent assessment, conducted by academics (led by Barry Popkin of the University of North Carolina), of food companies’ pledge to reduce the number of calories sold in the United States by 1.5 trillion by 2015. Yach also mentioned the Clinton Global Initiative, which works on such efforts as human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccines and training in chronic disease research. See the health page of the initiative, which was started by President Bill Clinton, here.

In addition, Yach stated that partnerships with government agencies can be very powerful. The PepsiCo Mexico business is working on an initiative with the InterAmerican Development Bank, in Mexico, to support poor farmers in growing the high-oleic sunflowers Pepsi needs as it moves away from using palm oil in products. The PepsiCo Foundation is assisting the World Food Program (part of the United Nations), in Ethiopia, in developing Ready to Use Supplementary Food, based on local chickpeas, for Ethiopia’s emergency feeding programs.

Yach’s third recommendation was to use “common advocacy for shared positions.” For example, the point that “prevention works and is economically sensible” can sometimes be drowned out by other viewpoints. Advocacy campaigns run by academics and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and funded by foundations and others, have a better chance of having a “sustained public health impact” than those led by corporations or governments, he said.

Even as businesses are focusing on sustainability principles (which Yach explained to me are principles that “lead to specific actions to ensure that the needs of future generations are not compromised by actions taken today” in a paraphrase of the words of a former head of the WHO, Gro Harlem Brundtland, there is a continued need for philanthropy to do the following.

(1) Collaborate with corporations to invest in new ideas and knowledge leading to a redesign of health systems and health professional training.

(2) Fund institutions that support human capacity development, such as universities—Yach forecast that in the future free-standing medical or public health schools likely will be replaced by multidisciplinary “centers for health” working in concert with corporate innovators.

(3) Meet emergency needs (such as those seen in Hurricane Katrina, the tsunamis in Indonesia and Japan, and a recent outbreak of typhoid fever in Harare, Zimbabwe), but cap the amount spent on emergencies, to allow for work on long-term improvements.

In the Q and A following his speech, Yach graciously fielded some confrontational questions. For example, one meeting attendee from the Kansas Health Foundation mentioned the challenge of companies’ marketing to teens, which has been effective and is contributing to obesity. The problem is not just sodas in schools. Yach responded that beverage companies and retailers need to be attentive to this problem, noting Pepsi’s efforts to actively support a shift to lower-calorie drinks, such as Tazo teas, Aquafina water, and Pepsi Next, for all, especially teens. In his view, drinking something with artificial sweetener is better than drinking a full-calorie beverage.

An attendee from the Association of American Medical Colleges asked about PepsiCo’s fast-food marketing in India where he has noticed people starting to eat Frito-Lay products instead of traditional snacks. Besides the fact that some of these products are viewed as unhealthy, such products cost more than the traditional Indian snacks of roasted peanuts or garbanzo beans. Yach’s response? The amounts of calories, salt, and saturated fat are worse in the unregulated traditional Indian “street food,” and such snacks are often cooked in a backyard cooker with very high levels of salt and with red enamel paint containing contaminants. Yach said that in emerging markets, such as India, PepsiCo is experimenting with an iron-fortified cookie, which could be sold as a healthier snack food.

Related reading:

See my October GrantWatch Blog post, “Can It Be True? Do Food and Beverage Companies That Sell Healthier Products Do Better Financially?”

Chronic Diseases, Global Health, Health Insurance, & More: Foundation Blogs Round-Up


March 7th, 2012

Here are some blog posts that caught my eye this week, as I sifted through foundation blogs I follow. The descriptions are brief—just to give you a flavor of what the post is about.  This is a short week in the office for me, as I head over to nearby Baltimore for the Grantmakers In Health annual meeting. Hope to see some of you there!

Chronic Diseases

“The Care Coordination Imperative: Responding to the Needs of People with Chronic Diseases,” Anne-Marie Audet and Shreya Patel of the Commonwealth Fund, on the Commonwealth Fund Blog, February 21. The authors note that “coordination is a multifaceted activity that requires effective participation among many different [health care] professionals, service organizations, and—of course—the patient” and tell readers how we can “get it together.”

Foundation Staffers: FYI

“Making Change by Working Together,” by Chris Palmedo of the Northwest Health Foundation, February 6, on the Communications Network’s blog. Palmedo, who is director of public affairs at this Oregon-based foundation, comments that he is “constantly challenged—not only by [foundation] program staff but even by many of our grantees—to take full advantage of every communications vehicle necessary to seek the broad policy and institutional changes that continue to elude us.” This might mean foundation staff writing newspaper op-eds, blog posts, and letters to editors. Northwest Health Foundation funds in Oregon and certain parts of Washington State. (Editor’s notes to readers: Thanks much to the Foundation Center’s PhilanTopic blog for alerting me to Palmedo’s post. Also, readers, GrantWatch Blog invites posts from foundation staffers on health policy–related topics!)

Global Health

“Polio in India: We Have Won the Battle but the War Is Not Over,” by Devendra Khandait of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, March 1, on the Gates Foundation’s Impatient Optimists blog. The author reports that the World Health Organization announced recently that India has been officially removed from the polio endemic country list. The country went for a year “without a reported care of wild polio virus.” He adds that we must still be vigilant about polio in India going forward.

“Timely Treatment for Drug-Resistant TB in Kenya,” by Erin Howe of the Open Society Foundations, March 2, on the Open Society Foundations Blog. In this post the author (who works on the Public Health Watch initiative of the Open Society Public Health Program) relates an anecdote about a patient, in Kenya, with tuberculosis. Howe notes the important advocacy role of civil society organizations in keeping governments “accountable for designing and implementing policies that meet patients’ needs.”

“U.S. Congress Faces Funding Decision on HIV, Malaria,” by Kaitlin Christenson of the Global Health Technologies Coalition, March 1, on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Impatient Optimists blog. Describing a Kenyan mother with HIV and her baby and how “life-altering” effects of research funded by the United States helped them, the author advocates for Congress’s continued investment in global health research. Such research “has historically received strong bipartisan support in Congress,” she notes. Also, the coalition, a Gates grantee, has posted a summary of Christenson’s post on its web site.

Health Care for the Elderly

“Medications and Aging,” by Nora OBrien-Suric of the John A. Hartford Foundation, February 17, on the Hartford Foundation’s Health AGEnda blog. In this short post, the author reminds us of the problems involved when seniors are prescribed multiple pills—they can be difficult to remember as well as afford, and they can unpleasant bad side effects and interactions with other drugs that are “magnified” in this population. She also touts a recent issue of the American Society on Aging’s journal Generations focusing on “the controversies surrounding medication use in older adults,” and she mentions some Hartford initiatives in this area.

“Website Kickoff: 2.0!,” by Chris Langston of the Hartford Foundation, March 6, on the foundation’s Health AGEnda blog. Langston announces the foundation’s reconceived and redesigned web site. Check it out.

Health Insurance Coverage

“Freelancers Union Expands Affordable and Stable Coverage for Independent Workers,” by Nancy Barrand of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), February 24, on the RWJF’s Pioneering Ideas blog. Barrand says that 30 percent of the workforce earns a living as contractors, freelancers, and temps with no employer-provided benefits, including health insurance. The Freelancers Union, which has received three grants over the years from the RWJF, will launch three Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans (CO-OPs), which are “nonprofit, consumer-governed insurance companies” envisioned in the Affordable Care Act of 2010. How will the organization do this? On February 21 the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services awarded it federal loans. The CO-OPs will be located in New Jersey, New York, and Oregon.

Mental Health

“Love, Peace and Suicide: The Loss of Soul Train Visionary Creator, Don Cornelius,” by Vicky Coffee-Fletcher of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, February 3, on the Hogg Blog. The author’s post contains a tribute to Cornelius, who created the TV series Soul Train. Cornelius took his own life. Coffee-Fletcher notes that “suicide is a preventable public health issue” that affects individuals, families, and communities. The post contains statistics on it and suicide prevention resources.

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