National collaborative awarding up to $7.5 million to improve community health
The Advisory Board Company, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), de Beaumont Foundation and The Kresge Foundation recently joined forces to launch a major public health initiative known as the BUILD Health Challenge, which will award up to $7.5 million in grants, low-interest loans and program-related investments over the next two years to improve health in low-income neighborhoods within cities that have a population of 150,000 or more.
Starting from a premise that good community health takes more than just healthcare, the four organizers seek to identify, accelerate and spotlight best practice models and innovative approaches to addressing nonclinical factors that influence health through collaborative partnerships between hospitals and health systems, local health departments, and nonprofit community organizations. The goals of the funding program are to promote health equity, reduce per capita health spending, shift resources from treating illness and chronic conditions to the upstream social conditions that impact population health, and to identify and promote scalable best practices.
“Tackling today’s biggest health challenges is not the work of one organization … it’s not the work of one sector,” Abbey Cofsky, senior program officer with RWJF, pointed out. “The aim of the BUILD Health Challenge really is to increase the number and the efficiency and effectiveness of the types of partnerships that we know it will take to improve health. And that means bringing together hospitals, community leaders and public health leaders to collaborate in efforts that are going to move the needle on health and ultimately really change the dynamic around cost.”
James Sprague, MD, chairman and CEO of the de Beaumont Foundation, noted, “There is much work that has to be done to improve population health, and this BUILD Health Challenge, we hope, will identify promising models across the nation that will be replicable and sustainable in order to address health problems before they get started.”
Brian Castrucci, chief program and strategy officer with de Beaumont, said the United States provides access to some of the best medical care in the world using some of the most advanced technologies and treatments available. However, he continued, “Its (the healthcare system’s) impact is diminished when patients return to neighborhoods with limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables, no options for safe or affordable physical activity, or no options to fill pharmacy prescriptions.”
He noted individuals often present with chronic or complex conditions exacerbated by lifestyle choices that are impacted by the social determinants of health. “The simple truth is that our traditional model of healthcare delivery doesn’t really work anymore.” Castrucci added, “It was designed to respond to acute illnesses like polio and typhoid and not address causes of disease that occur far beyond the clinic walls.”
Chris Kabel, senior program officer with The Kresge Foundation, echoed those sentiments, noting there is a growing awareness that most of the nation’s health is determined outside of the healthcare system. “Unfortunately, health-promoting resources are not equitably distributed and tend to be least prevalent in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color,” he said.
Kabel added, “One reason why most traditional health education campaigns have proven ineffective is they’ve done nothing to change the local opportunity infrastructure in which people live, learn, work and play.” With the BUILD Health Challenge, Kabel noted local community-based organizations are a critical component for success since their members truly understand the neighborhoods they serve including challenges, assets, obstacles and opportunities to maximize health.
Dennis Weaver, MD, chief medical officer and executive vice president with the Southwind Consulting and Management division of The Advisory Board Company, highlighted the emerging role hospitals and health systems are beginning to play in building healthier communities as providers move into a world of population health management.
“Most health systems are comfortable with the clinical determinants of healthcare but often don’t focus as much on the social and economic determinants of healthcare which are so critically important to population health because they feel that they can’t effect, essentially, a change in those areas,” Weaver said. He added the exciting part of the BUILD Health Challenge is that it brings the key stakeholders together to address those upstream barriers going forward.
Awards include up to $3.5 million in grants and up to $4 million in low-interest loans. On the grant side, there will be up to five planning awards across a one-year period of up to $75,000 and as many as nine implementation awards of up to $250,000 each across a two-year period.
Cofsky said the planning awards are really designed for new partnerships looking to develop a well-defined community health improvement plan, whereas the implementation awards are geared toward collaborations that are already active or have gotten past the initial thought process but need an infusion of resources to accelerate their work. The partnering hospital or health system must also agree to a 1:1 match of the implementation award with a mix of dollar and in-kind support.
Cofsky continued, “We are also excited, as a part of this initiative, to have a low-interest loan pool of up to $4 million for community revitalization efforts aligned with those BUILD Health goals that could be advanced by this form of capital.” She added both forms of funding include a comprehensive menu of support services to help the partners succeed.
The competitive awards program, which has a first application deadline of Jan. 15, culminates with the announcement of up to 14 funded collaborations on June 9, 2015. For more information, go online to buildhealthchallenge.org.
BUILDing Better Health
The awards and low-interest loans will support up to 14 community-driven efforts that takeBold, Upstream, Integrated, Local, Data-driven approaches to improving community health and promoting health equity.
Applications & Key Dates
Information from web conferences held in December plus details about the challenge, partners, eligibility requirements and overall process are online at buildhealthchallenge.org.
To be eligible, BUILD Health applicants must include, at a minimum, a partnership between a hospital or health system, local health department, and nonprofit community organization or coalition of organizations. The nonprofit community organization must serve as the lead applicant in each proposal. Activity should be focused within a delineated ZIP code(s), census tract(s), or neighborhood(s) experiencing significant health disparities within a city of 150,000 or more residents. Also, participants must be willing to engage in a learning collaborative and openly share ideas, action plans, and results. Applications can be submitted online through the website.
Below are key dates going forward:
Jan. 16: Deadline for Round 1 applications.
Feb. 12: Invitations extended to select applicants for Round 2.
April 10: Deadline for Round 2 applications.
June 9: Winners announced.