Yesterday, during a quiet work week, I was catching up on my reading of various philanthropy blogs. I mention below a few posts that caught my eye. This small sampling shows the range of topics that foundations follow. One thing I noticed is that at some foundations, not much blogging is going on! That must be because of the slower pace of summertime, which is rapidly drawing to a close. . . .

Health Reform

“Update: State Action Round-Up on Affordable Care Act Implementation,” by Tracy Garber and Sara Collins, August 19, on the Commonwealth Fund Blog. In this useful compilation, the authors, who both work for the Commonwealth Fund, report what states are doing about health insurance exchanges (“marketplaces”) and about Medicaid expansion. You will marvel at the varied ways states have decided to handle the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)! Outreach efforts are starting—for example, the authors report that “nonprofit, community-based organizations and foundations are working to inform people and businesses in Missouri” about the state’s federally facilitated exchange. The post links to a New York Times article quoting Ryan Barker of the Missouri Foundation for Health; he mentions the foundation’s campaign to cover 200,000 uninsured people in the Show-Me state. As the authors remind us, the major insurance provisions of the ACA (otherwise known as Obamacare) kick in on January 1, 2014, just a few months from now. This post is part of a series; thus far, updates have been published twice a month.

Global Health: Vaccines

“The Power of Vaccines,” by Trevor Mundel, August 19, on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Impatient Optimists blog. Mundel, who heads up the Gates Global Health Program, mentions “the amazing progress” of scientists and manufacturers during the past fifty years in developing and delivering vaccines, which are “the most powerful and cost-effective health solutions of all time.” Mundel urges governments, industry, and nonprofits to work together to accelerate vaccine development for diseases continuing to burden people in developing countries. This collaboration is a “key” focus area for the Gates Foundation because, according to Mundel, there are many technical challenges in producing vaccines for people in developing countries. These challenges include the need to (1) maintain vaccines’ “potency for an extended period . . .in high heat and humidity,” (2) provide effective protection “with the fewest number of doses,” and (3) ensure that health workers with a minimum amount of training can easily administer the vaccines.

Environmental Health

“Worthy Work,” by Lauren Linville, July 22, on Giving InSight, Health and Environmental Funders Network’s (HEFN’s) blog. Linville, who is HEFN’s communications associate, writes about some recent awards in the environmental health field. In July the White House awarded a Champions of Change award to Gary Cohen, cofounder and president of Health Care Without Harm, for its work “in reducing the health sector’s contribution to climate change and preparing communities for health threats related to climate change,” Linville explained. The awards program celebrates innovative ideas in a variety of categories. (Lagniappe: Read about Health Care Without Harm’s fascinating work in the area of hospitals’ waste management.)

In July the Children’s Environmental Health Network won the National Environmental Health Association’s first-ever Environmental Health Innovation Award. The network received the award for its program that supports child care providers in “creating environmentally healthy” sites for providing such care.

And last, but not least, in June, Pete Myers, who is CEO and chief scientist of Environmental Health Sciences (publisher of Environmental Health News), won the John Merck Fund’s 2013 Frank Hatch “Sparkplug” Award for Enlightened Public Service. A press release explains that he won for his work that helped those in “the field of toxicology incorporate emerging scientific understanding of endocrine disrupting chemicals.” The fund’s chair, Olivia Farr, states in the release that Myers’ work “impacted government policy and research agendas around the world, as well as the way corporations are thinking about chemicals in their products.” The Merck Fund is going to “spend out” all of its assets between 2012 and 2022, according to its website. As an aside, Myers was one of the advisers for Health Affairs’ May 2011 thematic issue on environmental health.

Mental Health

“Thoughts on Minority Mental Health Awareness Month,” by Imani (“Ike”) Evans, July 26, on the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health’s Hogg Blog. Evans, public affairs specialist at the Austin, Texas-based foundation, notes that the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) designated July as National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. In my view, it’s a good thing to think about minorities’ challenges in this area. Evans notes that according to the federal government’s 2010 National Healthcare Disparities Report, African Americans receive mental health treatment or counseling at just half the rate that whites do. She reports that a similar gap exists when it comes to “receiving medication for mental-health related issues.” And African American mental health professionals are in short supply. In the post Evans tells the story of a young professional who is African American and was diagnosed with depression while in college.

The author also notes that the Hogg Foundation is working with the Austin Area African American Behavioral Health Network. Challenges for the African American population “include stigma, the need for greater cultural competency among mental health providers, structural racism, substance use and the limited mental health knowledge among clergy.” And the “clergy and the faith community often offer support and guidance to African Americans,” a program officer at the foundation points out in the post.