In 2005 when the Health Forward Foundation was first beginning, the founding board of directors conducted many thoughtful discussions and research to focus the Health Forward’s funding. They selected the three areas of health that remain as the Foundation’s funding priorities: healthy lifestyles, mental health and safety net.
While all of these areas are critical in achieving Health Forward’s mission of eliminating barriers to quality health, as someone who has spent her career in education, I can speak firsthand about the importance that access to healthy foods and physical activity have in building healthy children, families and communities.
During the past 10 years, nearly $28 million has been awarded through Healthy Lifestyles in areas such as developing community and school gardens, making access to safer outdoor venues, reducing childhood obesity, increasing physical activity, providing nutritional programming, and promoting a tobacco-free environment.
Recently the Healthy Lifestyles grant name was changed to Healthy Communities. The new name doesn’t change the focus of the grant, but better reflects Health Forward’s goal of creating environments that encourage healthy choices, so that all individuals in the community benefit.
This year Health Forward has allocated $2.4 million for Healthy Communities funding and the Board of Directors will approve the official 2015 Healthy Communities grantees at next week’s board meeting.
Other Health Forward funding streams such as special initiatives and Applicant Defined Grants also promote healthier living. Of particular importance to me as I look back on the past 10 years was the unsuccessful effort to increase Missouri’s low tobacco tax through Proposition B. Health Forward supported the tobacco tax increase through its Prop B initiative funding. This issue continues to be among the priorities of those who identify a correlation between smoking and severe health issues.
Yet despite Health Forward’s significant funding pool, the amount we can dedicate to building health communities cannot begin to meet the entire needs of the underserved and uninsured within our service area. On top of money the Foundation dedicates to healthy communities, there is also a lot of work being done to incorporate partnerships, collaboration, advocacy, communication, and evaluation.
While access to fresh produce, playgrounds and clean air may seem basic to healthy living, they are still out of reach to our service areas. But with time, we hope to change that, through funding programs that bring healthy food to food deserts, supporting clean air policy changes and working with communities who hope to improve physical activity through built environment.
The Health Care Foundation continues to champion the efforts of grantees and community partners that afford everyone opportunities to improve their quality of life.
Decade of Difference