November 24th, 2014
Nearly $1 billion in grant funding is awarded each year by health legacy foundations (which some call “conversion foundations”). These foundations are formed with proceeds from mergers and acquisitions of nonprofit health care entities and currently operate in forty-three states across the country. At least 306 of these foundations have been established over the past three decades, and in 2010, their combined assets totaled more than $26 billion.
Although this figure may not seem so impressive on a national scale, health legacy foundations can have an enormous impact at the community level. Most of these funders originated from a nonprofit hospital and restrict their giving to one or two counties, frequently mirroring the hospital’s service area.
For some communities, the millions of dollars in new philanthropic assets represent unprecedented potential to support local charitable initiatives. How health legacy foundations use these funds to respond to community health needs is a crucial issue.
The November 2014 issue of Health Affairs featured my GrantWatch article, coauthored by Bill Brandon of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, that examined social determinants of health in communities where health legacy foundations have been established. Compared to communities without health legacy foundations, communities where these foundations are located had significantly higher proportions of racial minorities and multiple socioeconomic factors that rendered them more vulnerable to health disparities and poor health.
On the other hand, communities with health legacy foundations had lower rates of uninsured people, lower rates of preventable hospitalizations, and a better supply of physicians and dentists.
Certainly, health legacy foundations need to assess the needs and resources within their own communities before developing and prioritizing grant-making strategies. However, our study’s findings underscore the need for health legacy foundations to consider social and economic interventions as viable options for improving community health.
Many health legacy foundations have developed grant-making initiatives aimed at improving socioeconomic status. These foundations offer examples of promising strategies for health legacy foundations and other grantmakers to consider in their pursuit of better health status. Several of these initiatives are described below. Read the rest of this entry »