Frequently asked questions (and answers!) about Health Forward’s refined focus


Editor’s note: On Sept. 30, Health Forward hosted a virtual celebration for our 15th anniversary. During the event, president/CEO Qiana Thomason inspired us with the announcement of Health Forward’s focus on racial and health equity. Below are some frequently asked questions that came from audience members during and after the event. You can also watch the live Q&A segment between board member Irene Caudillo and Qiana.

What prompted Health Forward to reimagine the future? 

Health Forward Foundation has long known and advocated that to address barriers to health we must look to the social factors that impede health for those most in need. The only way to achieve better health for all is to strive for more just and equitable communities.

Poverty is one of the most common barriers to health among the people we serve. The underpinnings of poverty are income, wealth inequality, and structural racism. This understanding compels us to move upstream to address economic inclusion and racial and ethnic disparities as barriers to health.

Philanthropy’s purpose is to focus on strategic, upstream factors that shape and drive the conditions of our daily lives and in doing so it is undeniable of what underpins poverty — income, wealth inequality, and structural racism that is deep and pervasive and glaring now more than ever. 

These truths prompted us to evaluate how we can be impactful in addressing upstream factors and identifying the intersections for health.  

Where does my organization fit into the refined focus?

Health Forward will always be an anchor partner in health care and mental health delivery in this community. Our new vision will likely refine our work. We expect our grantmaking to evolve, our partnerships to diversify, and our advocacy footprint to broaden as we look upstream to address health barriers. Our partners will have a voice in and be able to inform our purpose alignment process. We look forward to your feedback and learning what’s important to you in building power, money, and resources in communities.

Will there be changes to the grant application process?

Yes, we plan to make some changes to the application process in the next year or two. We know that we cannot change what we’re not measuring. We will need to have sufficient data from our partners to have an impact. Future applications will include requests for demographic information, and project impact on racial and health equity. Beyond this, we will streamline the application process in response to your requests that we make the application more accessible and less arduous.

What are immediate actions or changes you hope to implement at the end of the year and in years to come?

We are undergoing a comprehensive equity audit and looking at every facet of the foundation — grantmaking, policy agenda, vendors, suppliers, governance, staff. We want to establish benchmarks to advance equity in our own organization. We intend to have some feedback in those areas toward the end of the year and spend all of next year using that as the basis to inform our purpose alignment process. We plan to share our journey with our community partners and grantees. We want to hear from you throughout this process in order to understand how our grantmaking, capacity-building, and technical assistance will aid you in your own challenges in the race equity space. 

How does Health Forward plan to engage more in advocacy?

We cannot fund our way to health equity or economic inclusion. We plan to invest more in advocacy and broadening our advocacy footprint, and that begins with expanding our policy agenda to focus on health care access and social influencers.