Game Changers: Philanthropy’s Role in Eliminating Mental Health Disparities


November 17th, 2014

“We believe funders are game changers; we have a significant opportunity to change the health care landscape,” said Rick Ybarra, program officer for the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, located in Austin, Texas. Ybarra, together with Octavio Martinez, executive director of the Hogg Foundation, and Enrique Mata, senior program officer for Paso del Norte Health Foundation, located in El Paso, Texas, met with three dozen foundation leaders in early November during Philanthropy Southwest’s 2014 Annual Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. The panelists sought to show funders how their differing efforts, ranging from small to large in scope, can add up to help eliminate mental health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities.

The session built on the August 2013 Grantmakers In Health (GIH) special report, A Window of Opportunity: Philanthropy’s Role in Eliminating Health Disparities through Integrated Health Care. The report recommends four overarching approaches for funders to consider as ways to promote systems change and facilitate the integration of primary care and mental health services. These approaches have been shown to work in eliminating health disparities:

1) grant making: take risks, involve community members, include a broad range of grantees, fund planning and preparation efforts, focus on evidence, partner with other organizations;

2) educating: develop internal expertise at foundations, emphasize research and evaluation, share knowledge and lessons learned with stakeholders;

3) convening: serve as a neutral convener, bring experts together, form learning communities, provide safe opportunities for “daring dialogues”; and

4) advocating: support policy fellowships, host a legislative summit, promote policies for sustainability of funded projects, facilitate a policy workgroup, be a voice for cultural and linguistic competency.

Panelists emphasized that regardless of the approach, it is important for foundation staff and trustees to see firsthand the needs in their communities. Read the rest of this entry »

Oral Health: How a Foundation in New York State Is Working to Prevent Cavities in Young Children


November 5th, 2014

Early Childhood Caries—tooth decay among children under age six—is a disease process that can cause pain that affects a child’s ability to eat, speak, and learn at a time when he or she should be developing and thriving. Almost half of all children develop this decay before they reach kindergarten, with the greatest burden occurring in low-income children.

Like the American Dental Association, we are encouraged at seeing preliminary data showing that untreated decay among preschool children has fallen. But we’re still disturbed that many young children are getting cavities, because this disease is almost always preventable.

In 2011 the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to fund the development of a simulation model that compared the cost-benefit/effectiveness of seven strategies for children ages zero to five years. The model built on work done previously in Colorado. The Children’s Dental Health Project, the New York State Department of Health, and consultant Gary Hirsch, an expert on this type of model, collaborated on design, data collection, and analysis. The Children’s Dental Health Project has developed a paper outlining the key findings of the model.

The model tested oral health strategies that evidence showed were most effective at preventing Early Childhood Caries and saving Medicaid money. These included community water fluoridation, increased tooth-brushing, and fluoride varnish application. Fluoridation yielded the highest potential Medicaid cost savings in the model, although the other strategies also showed promise for reducing disease and producing Medicaid savings. Overall, researchers found that proven public health practices such as fluoridation were effective in the model, but there are opportunities that exist to increase effectiveness by using clinical guidelines and better risk assessment to reduce disease.

It is common for research to be put on a shelf or stored online, with none of that knowledge transferred to organizations working in the field. However, understanding that this model could benefit children if it were used as the basis for community engagement, the Health Foundation sought partners to create a replicable, community-based program to reduce Early Childhood Caries.

Around the time that this simulation model was ready, New York State’s health department released its Prevention Agenda. This document is the blueprint for state and local activities to improve the health of New Yorkers. For the first time, it contained specific goals for reducing dental disease in children. A program designed around the simulation model was an opportunity to help communities achieve these goals through the application of evidence-based strategies.

The Health Foundation and the New York State Health Foundation teamed up to fund the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy to manage a partnership charged with developing an oral health program to be piloted in two sites in 2014. The center is a statewide, nonprofit, nonpartisan, human services advocacy organization with a long history of working to promote policies to improve oral health in New York State. Read the rest of this entry »

What Is Philanthropy Doing about Ebola?


October 30th, 2014

As the fight against Ebola continues in West Africa, foundations and others are stepping up to provide support. There are too many for GrantWatch Blog to provide a comprehensive list, but here are a few examples.

In an August 25 press release, the CDC Foundation, in Atlanta, announced a $1 million grant to its Global Disaster Response Fund from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). The grant is for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Ebola response needs.

The CDC Foundation, which was established by Congress, helps the CDC “do more, faster, by forging public-private partnerships to support [the agency’s] work 24/7 to save lives and protect people from health and safety threats,” the release says. It is a 501(c)(3) public charity.

Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, the RWJF’s president and CEO, said in the release, “We are privileged to assist CDC in its heroic efforts to contain this [Ebola] outbreak, and we are confident of their ability to control this scourge—provided they have the support required to do the job.”

The grantee has used the RWJF funds to purchase essential materials needed by the CDC to respond to the Ebola epidemic—for example, polymerase chain reaction machines and “specialized reagents capable of rapidly detecting the presence or absence of the Ebola virus in patient samples,” Claire Greenwell at the CDC Foundation told me. The RWJF funding also is being used to buy electronic tablets for use by contact tracing and burial teams in Liberia and to help buy personal protective equipment used in training US health workers before their deployment to West Africa.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced on September 10 that it would commit $50 million to support the scaling up of emergency efforts to contain Ebola in West Africa and to “interrupt transmission of the virus,” according to a Gates press release. As of that time, it had already awarded some of that $50 million. Five million dollars went to the World Health Organization (WHO) for emergency operations and more; and $5 million to the US Fund for UNICEF for efforts in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone to buy essential medical supplies, coordinate response, and “provide at-risk communities with life-saving health information.” And $2 million was to be allocated “immediately” to the CDC for treatment, health care system strengthening, and more, according to the release.

Read an October 10 blog post by Anick Supplice Dupuy, executive director of the nongovernmental organization (NGO) PSI/Haiti, published on the Gates Foundation’s Impatient Optimists blog, “On Ebola: Haiti Has Lessons in Slowing the Spread of Infectious Disease.”

The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation awarded $9 million to the CDC Foundation’s Global Disaster Response Fund, according to a September 11 press release. The intent of the grant is to help manage the public health response to the Ebola epidemic. It will help advance the work of the CDC and that of local ministries of health in setting up “sustainable emergency response centers” in countries that were then (and still are) most affected by the epidemic: Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Read the rest of this entry »

GrantWatch RSS Feed
Sign up for monthly GrantWatch alerts.