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Verizon Foundation Launches Programs to Help Reduce Health Care Disparities



December 10th, 2012

On December 4, this funder, based in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, announced its intent to invest nearly $13 million in health care funding to four national nonprofits and more than a dozen other locally and regionally focused organizations. Support will include not only cash grants but donations of health information technology.

The Verizon Foundation aims to reduce disparities for children, women, and seniors with chronic health conditions who live in underserved communities around the United States, through improving access to care, quality of care, and patient self-management of their conditions and overall health. This is a new funding strategy for the Verizon Foundation’s health focus area, because now, grantees will receive access to in-kind donations of health information technology (IT), which the funder calls “solutions,” as well as money.

The grants to the four national nonprofits have been awarded, but the technology will be donated to them in early 2013, according to the foundation’s website.

Treatment of chronic diseases is costly, and such diseases often are preventable, the foundation notes in explaining why it is focusing on these conditions. In addition, underserved children, women, and seniors are most at risk for chronic conditions attributable to socioeconomic, genetic, and environmental factors. The Verizon Foundation is focusing on heart disease, diabetes, and lung diseases.

The four grantees/partners announced in the past week are the Children’s Health Fund, the Society for Women’s Health Research, National Association of Community Health Centers, and University of California, San Diego’s (UCSD’s) School of Medicine. The foundation hopes to expand to more partnerships in 2013.

Technology can connect children to better health care; it can increase access to care for underserved women and help them self-manage  chronic diseases; and for seniors, it can connect health providers, patients, and caregivers, so older people with chronic conditions can “age in place.” Also, technology helps health care providers communicate with one another. These are among the reasons why the foundation is equipping grantees with health IT.

Here is an example. UCSD will use Verizon funding to enhance its innovative, video-based, medication adherence system and will use donated Verizon technology to expand the program. Specifically, patients with tuberculosis will use mobile-based video technology (called VDOT) to film themselves taking their daily medications. They will send this video to a secure website (which is compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act [HIPAA]) on which their health care provider will be able to verify compliance with their care plan. Have you heard of mobile health (mHealth)? This is an example of it: patients will be remotely managing their conditions and communicating securely with health providers. The expected results? The foundation expects lowered costs of care and improved health outcomes.

The Verizon Foundation and UCSD will partner to expand this cloud-based technology platform with public health departments around the United States and around the world.

Thanks to the Verizon Foundation, the Children’s Health Fund will use mHealth at six locations for increased access to care, improved appointment adherence, and chronic disease management and education. The Verizon Foundation–funded program is expected to serve 35,000 homeless and uninsured children. The Children’s Health Fund will also use telemedicine to help kids access care from specialty health providers.

The Society for Women’s Health Research will partner with academic medical centers in its program, which will focus on education about, and self-management of, diabetes and heart disease in women.

Last, but not least, among the national grantees, is the National Association of Community Health Centers. The association will work with twelve health centers to focus on older people with chronic conditions, so they can age in place. Among the components of this program is training seniors to use health technology to self-manage their conditions and communicate more effectively with their providers.

The foundation points out that it is seeking measurable results through its new funding strategy. Reducing disparities is something measurable, Anthony Llompart of the foundation, explained to me in an e-mail. These four programs will be evaluated, and data will be collected; grantees must submit periodic progress reports and relate lessons learned. The foundation points out candidly that results of these programs will not only inform the efficacy of technology in improving health outcomes but will also contribute valuable insight to Verizon’s business ventures.

Domestic Violence Prevention Funding

Another part of the Verizon Foundation’s health funding area is domestic violence prevention. Former National Football League player James Brown is a spokesperson for this effort. The newest component of it is called Your Voice Counts, a new campaign to encourage and teach people, especially men, how to raise awareness and start conversations about domestic violence in their communities.

The Verizon Foundation funds 501(c)(3) charities around the United States. The foundation accepts online applications only and reviews them through much of the year, on a rolling basis. In addition to health, its other funding priorities are education and sustainable energy. See its website for more information.

 

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