The mission of The Health Foundation is to use our resources to improve the health of those who live or work in the Central Massachusetts region, with particular emphasis on vulnerable populations and unmet needs.
As guiding principles, The Health Foundation will:
- Be cognizant of, and responsive to, the changing health needs of the region;
- Combine its charitable mission with a commitment to innovation;
- Hold prevention, education, provision of health services and research as tenets, with a recognition that these concepts are the cornerstone of improving health;
- Function primarily by awarding grants, though it may also from time to time initiate its own programs;
- Endeavor to leverage its resources as a catalyst for positive change; and
- Use the term “health” in its broadest sense, drawing upon the World Health Organization’s definition:
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” – The World Health Organization
Adoption of this broad definition of health resulted from an intentional interest in using the Foundation’s limited assets to achieve the greatest impact by addressing socioeconomic factors that affect health, rather than focusing on clinical interventions or healthcare delivery.
The Health Foundation’s Long Held Commitment to Health Equity
The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts is dedicated to eliminating inequities within all aspects of health and addressing the social determinants, including the underlying racial, social, and economic factors, that shape health status. The Foundation takes a multifaceted approach to this work, understanding that community engagement, collaboration, technical assistance, evaluation, and advocacy all play a role in creating sustainable, systematic change.
Since its founding, the Foundation has applied a social determinants of health framework to guide its investments in nonprofit organizations working to improve health outcomes and address barriers to health equity that disproportionately impact people of color, those who are low-income, and/or reside in communities with limited infrastructure and resources in Central Massachusetts.
In addition, the Foundation’s unique grantmaking approach involves learning about pressing and emerging health issues from the community (as opposed to defining priority issues on its own) and then providing technical assistance throughout all phases of the application process and grant period, which enables the Foundation to support organizations of varying sizes and capabilities.
Together, these strategies have led the Foundation to play an early role in promoting health equity in our region by addressing issues such as homelessness, food insecurity, criminal justice, and economic mobility, and by achieving systems change that advances health equity in a sustainable way. Recognizing that profound inequities persist in this region— further exacerbated by the pandemic— there is a deepened focus on collaborating with community stakeholders. The Foundation is committed to strengthening its outreach to traditionally marginalized communities, empowering emerging community leaders, and catalyzing innovative solutions through each of its grantmaking avenues to address social determinants of health and improve health equity.
Health Equity Principles in Practice
The Foundation employs the following strategies to uphold its health equity commitment:
- Relying on community stakeholders to identify health issues that should be addressed, as informed by health status indicators and data related to social determinants of health, rather than the Foundation naming health issues and calling for proposals to address those issues;
- Encouraging community partnerships and collaborative projects to address health equity issues identified at the local level; and
- Gathering demographic data, when available, to better understand and monitor diverse representation among applicant organizations and populations served.
Technical Assistance & Resource Sharing:
- Partnering with and supporting organizations that provide technical assistance to nonprofits and providing referrals for applicants and grantees, as well as information on other funding opportunities, as appropriate;
- Offering multiple information sessions to provide applicants insight into the application and evaluation process;
- Reviewing drafts of letters of intent, applications and grant reports and providing feedback prior to formal submission; and
- Fostering communities of practice among Synergy Initiative Project Directors, Project Coordinators, and Evaluators.
Community Outreach & Collaboration:
- Engaging a Community Outreach Committee with community members representing organizations from across the geographic area and serving traditionally marginalized communities, including people with lived experiences;
- Conducting direct outreach to organizations led by people of color and/or located within underrepresented communities to raise awareness of grant opportunities, encourage applications, and offer technical assistance; and
- Participating in meetings of the Community Health Network Areas (CHNAs) and other relevant networks throughout the Foundation’s service area to learn about health issues, share information about the Foundation’s grant opportunities, and collaborate with other funders to leverage resources for initiatives addressing issues of health equity.
Policy & Advocacy:
- Publicizing successful grant projects to increase the likelihood that a project will be replicated or sustained;
- Sharing information with public officials regarding evidence-based interventions and collaborative models proven effective through grantmaking;
- Providing testimony to support local policies and legislation aimed at addressing health inequities;
- Supporting research, advocacy, and lobbying activities in partnership with other organizations, such as Health Care for All, to address health inequities and attract state/federal funding for sustainability of effective models addressing them; and
- Facilitating introductions between grantees and key stakeholders, as appropriate.