Looking Back on 10 Years: How Special Initiatives Have Helped Improve Systems of Care

The Health Forward Foundation reserves money each year for special initiatives. This funding helps to extend our grantmaking impact and advance our mission in a way that complements our three, core-funding areas.

Decade of DifferenceOver the past decade, Health Forward has funded more than 200 initiatives totaling more than $34 million. Grants ranged in size from $1,500 to $7.5 million. Initiatives funding allows Health Forward to respond to unique opportunities that are working toward improving health throughout our service area at a more systems level.

Even before my tenure as a Health Forward board member, I could speak directly to the impact this funding has on improving care for the uninsured and underserved. As the chief operating officer at Children’s Mercy Hospital and as a former fellow with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellows program, I was part of one of Health Forward’s earliest initiatives – the nursing workforce initiative, which brought universities and health care facilities together to turn the insights nurses gain into better processes and patient and financial outcomes. The work has been nationally replicated.

Initiative funding is also where Health Forward has funded most of our policy work the past decade. Funding in the public policy arena has always been an integral part of achieving our mission. Our first grant awarded in 2005 was a special initiative to support the Kansas City, Mo. health levy.

The funding of such policy initiatives is an important complement and extension to our funding of direct services. Many of the more long-term, sustainable solutions that we address through initiative funding, such as clean indoor air, building healthy communities, improving the delivery of service, and increasing access, involve changing public policy.

This policy work requires strong civic partners and informed community residents.
So whether it is engaging in direct policy work or our work in supporting and building local advocacy capacity within the nonprofit community, Health Forward has used initiative funding to give a voice to our most vulnerable community members.

Here are just a few highlights of our special initiatives Health Forward has been proud to support over the past decade.

  • Affordable Care Act: Health Forward has funded multiple initiatives to inform the public about the legislation, increase enrollment in the health insurance marketplace and campaign for Medicaid expansion in Kansas and Missouri.
  • Bi-State Nursing Innovation Center and CSI Academy: A funding partnership to create the Bi-State Nursing Innovation Center, a collaboration between universities and health care facilities to turn nurses’ insights into better processes and patient outcomes. The feature of the center was the Clinical Scene Investigator (CSI) Academy.
  • Clean Indoor Air: Health Forward has supported efforts to pass clean indoor air ordinances in Kansas and municipalities on the Missouri side of the Greater Kansas City area.
  • Head Start Trauma Smart: This innovative practice model was designed to address the high incidence of trauma that negatively impacts children’s lives. The model is currently provided in Head Start preschool programs in 26 counties in the Kansas City metro area and across Missouri, and includes around 3,200 children annually.
  • HPV Initiative: Health Forward and the REACH Healthcare Foundation partnered and funded an initiative in 2007-2008 to provide free human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines for women (ages 18-26). The vaccine was available at a variety of facilities in a six-county service area. A total of 16,240 vaccines were provided to 10,546 girls and young women, far exceeding the initiative’s goal. Read the evaluation summary >>
  • Nonprofit journalism: In 2014, Health Forward awarded a two-year grant to establish the Heartland Health Monitor, a collaborative between four not-for-profit news organizations to better cover health and heath care news across Missouri and Kansas. Read press release
  • Regional Health Care Initiative: One of Health Forward’s first and longest funded initiatives, RHCI was established in 2007 and promotes innovative, collaborative approaches to providing health care to the uninsured and medically underserved in metropolitan Kansas City. Read the executive summary >>
  • Specialty Care Referral Program: This project combines care provided in primary care safety net clinics with donated specialty care in a coordinated referral program led by medical societies.
  • Tobacco tax: In 2006 and 2012, Health Forward provided support to implement a ballot campaign to increase the tax on tobacco products in Missouri.
  • Truman Medical Centers: A 2008-2011 award allowed TMC to reconfigure its patient rooms to align with the acute care needs of its patients. Funding helped dramatically improve TMC’s emergency department and the retention of an appropriately staffed ED for behavioral health patients in crisis.

While it is critically important to provide core funding support that improves access and quality of care, I’m thankful that the board of directors continues to see the value of special initiative funding to look at health care through a macro lens. System changes do not happen over night. I’m proud that Health Forward values a stream of funding that can take advantage of opportunities to help improve the long-term health of our community.


Health Forward Foundation
2300 Main Street, Suite 304
Kansas City, MO 64108
(816) 241-7006