Philanthropy's Ability to Advance Population Health

By Amy Dorrill, FAHP, Accordant Philanthropy

While more than 90% of hospitals agree or strongly agree population health is aligned with their mission, only 19% of health care leaders strongly agree they possess the financial resources available to support population health. Lack of financial resources and uncertainty about concrete incentive programs are significant barriers for health care organizations to engage in community health improvements. Philanthropy can provide necessary financial resources to initiate and sustain these initiatives.

There is already an attraction to elements of population health (even though it has not been historically coined as such) with donors. What makes population health difficult to grasp for the health care organization makes it attractive for the donor. First and foremost, population health aligns with a patient and donor-centered perspective. Population health gives a holistic approach to the health care problems and identifies that it necessitates attention to environment, society, etc. to truly make an impact on health outcomes. Under this umbrella, philanthropists can have a larger impact. Seed money for hospitals’ new innovative models of care are ideal funding opportunities for philanthropists with expectations to provide transformational impact – results that are measurable and scalable not just within a specific organization but have the potential to be replicable on a large scale. Population health holds the promise to provide these system level changes and to engage foundations and individuals to fund these models designed to yield social impact as well as a financial return on their investments

There are unlimited opportunities for donors to fund population health initiatives at every interest level and financial level such as providing start-up capital for new models of care, services and programs that are not covered by insurance, and community programming extending outside the walls of the hospital. Some population health priorities parallel the familiar acute care scope currently supported by health care donors including purchasing capital equipment, building a new community health care clinic and purchasing a mobile mammography unit, making health care more accessible while focusing on prevention and early detection. The difference has been that these initiatives have not always fit in the organization’s core priority until now. Due to the enormous scope and financial needs of many of the population health initiatives, hospitals may need to dissect components of initiatives to target donors at all giving levels.

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