Funding To Improve Social Determinants Of Health

Source: Health Affairs
Publication Year: 2019
Patient Need Addressed: Food insecurity, Homelessness/housing
Type of Literature: White

In 2014 the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) decided to focus its grant making on the many factors influencing health, such as place of residence or income. These factors are often called the social determinants of health. The RWJF has committed with others to build a national Culture of Health, so that “everyone has the opportunity to live a healthier life,” according to its website. “Health equity” is at the center of its vision: the RWJF is striving for everyone in the US to “have the basics to be as healthy as possible.”

One of just two examples of the RWJF’s funding is support for the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health for “three unique programs to train executives and corporate teams to develop and implement Culture of Health practices in their organization,” the school said. Also, the RWJF Culture of Health Prize is “a national, annual competition that awards $25,000” to each of several communities “working together to transform neighborhoods, schools, businesses and more so that better health flourishes everywhere, for everyone,” a March 2019 press release explains. The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute collaborates on that effort.

“Much confusion,” though, surrounds the terms and concepts pertaining to the social determinants of health, says a May 2019 e-alert from the Milbank Memorial Fund. Authors Hugh Alderwick and Laura M. Gottlieb make an interesting suggestion that “individual-level adverse social determinants” instead be called “social risk factors,” because social determinants “could positively or negatively influence health,” says the e-alert’s summary of their Perspective in the fund’s Milbank Quarterly.

Should health professionals get more involved? In June 2019 Kaiser Permanente released a national survey titled “Social Needs in America.” According to a press release, 97 % of respondents said that their healthcare “providers should ask about social needs during medical visits.”

Philanthropy has been funding projects to improve social determinants of health for several years. As the field of philanthropy “deepens its understanding of the root causes of unequal health outcomes, a growing number of funders are working to bring upstream thinking to hospitals and health systems,” says an e-alert from Grantmakers In Health (GIH), which held an April 2019 webinar on moving these healthcare institutions upstream. Among the speakers was Antonia Richburg of Cone Health Foundation, in North Carolina.

Following are some examples of funding that addresses either of two social risk factors in particular: food insecurity and inadequate housing.

Insights Results

Overview of article

  • This article provides 2 examples of funding’s that addresses 1) Food insecurity; and 2) Inadequate housing

Key takeaways/implications

  • The Milbank Memorial Fund suggests that “individual-level adverse social determinants” instead be called “social risk factors” as social determinants could positively or negatively influence health
  • The Rose Community Foundation (RCF) has long-time funded Project Angel Heart, a project that delivers medically tailored meals to more than 3000 people with life threatening illnesses. A recent RCF grant allowed Project Angel Heart to ramp up Meals for Care Transitions, a program where healthcare partners interested in reducing patients’ risk of readmission and preventing further complications contract with the grantee to provide meals for patients
  • The Food Support Programs and Their Impacts on Very Young Children, a health policy brief funded by RWJF, concluded that federally-funded programs Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) reduce food insecurity and improve children’s health outcomes
  • The Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment awarded Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin a grant aimed at expanding the program’s success of creating efficient connections between local farms with high-quality produce and hunger relief agencies and others
  • The Humana Foundation funded the collaborative HealthyBR (Baton Rouge) for its Geaux Get Healthy project, which aims to fight food insecurity and social isolation
  • The Kresge Foundation awarded Common Market a grant to work to strengthen regional farms while making local produce available to underserved areas
  • According to a report by the Montana Healthcare Foundation, supportive housing means pairing affordable housing with behavioral healthcare, social services and more
  • A report by the Missouri Foundation for Health found that housing was a priority area for 36 of the 66 funders responding. Funders also recommended to bridge housing health and addressing gentrification and displacement
  • The Supportive Housing Network of New York connects high-cost Medicaid enrollees with supportive housing through the provision of training, technical assistance, advocacy and community partnership
  • Funders and other influential organizations that attempted to address inadequate housing outlined in this article include: 1) Montana Healthcare Foundation; 2) Conrad N. Hilton Foundation; 3) California Community Foundation; 4) New York Community Trust; and 5) Missouri Foundation for Health
  • Other funders in this area include: 1) California Endowment; 2) Colorado Health Foundation; 3) General Mills Foundation (food security); 4) Heinz Endowments (food security in Pittsburgh); 5) Saint Luke’s Foundation; 6) Sunflower Foundation; and 7) Vitalyst Health Foundation