I just returned from a Grantmakers in Health (GIH) Conference in San Francisco. (The stairs in the picture to the left welcomed our Health Forward contingent to the conference.) I am honored to be on the board of directors of this national philanthropic organization. I am also honored to serve on the GIH board with Bob Hughes of the Missouri Foundation for Health out of St. Louis, Mo., and Billie Hall of the Sunflower Foundation, located in Topeka, Kan.
The GIH board recently elected Billie as our national board chair for the next two years. Many of us in the Midwest already know of Billie’s extraordinary leadership ability and now the entire field of health philanthropy will benefit from this same leadership. We congratulate Billie and wish her much success and support in this new role.
The GIH conference this year was full of seminars about a host of issues, but the underlying theme it seemed to me was that those of us who are interested in improving the health outcomes of our citizens — especially the underserved — need to spend more time and money on funding efforts to that have nothing to do with in-patient hospitals and clinics visits, etc.
Instead, we need to focus more of our grant making on tobacco prevention, health literacy, telling the story of the underserved via the media, reduction of domestic and neighborhood violence, reduction of obesity, job creation, transportation, quality education, mental health, etc., if we ever hope to actually improve health conditions of the underserved. Using social media and partnering with the faith, business and nonprofit community can enhance our effectiveness.
Representatives of foundations from all over the U.S. attended, and it was interesting to listen to leaders who were from states with legislative leaders supporting health reform and how hopeful and inspired they were in implementing this new law. However, many of us were from states where our elected leaders have taken a strong stand against the Affordable Care Act.
Leadership matters, and I worry about the future of health care in the states of Missouri and Kansas. We still have time in Jefferson City and Topeka to expand Medicaid and work with the federal government to implement the health insurance exchanges this year.
Maybe after legislative spring break … a bipartisan spirit will allow for compromise … and action.