A February 2021 article on the Health Affairs Forefront explored the increased emphasis on health equity among philanthropic organizations across the US. The piece, which shared findings from a survey of health care grantmakers, reported that more than four out of five foundations had changed or plan to change their health equity programming. Moreover, nearly half of those polled had created new initiatives during the pandemic focused primarily on access to care and racial justice.
For practitioners such as us who have spent our careers working to close gaps in access and opportunity for historically marginalized communities, this is welcome news. There is no question that events over the past three years have catalyzed long-overdue action on equity. From the growth of equity-focused corporate roles—with nearly 80 percent of companies pledging to increase equity budgets—to increased health equity programs and curricula in medical and health professions education, there is clearly momentum building to advance change.
And yet, as philanthropic budgets grow, so, too, does frustration within communities that are best positioned to deploy those resources. Most philanthropic dollars still seem to go toward short-term, deficit-based, and scope-limited projects—charitable donations rather than sustainable investments. Of particular concern is that funding models themselves tend to reinforce the same power dynamics they purportedly seek to dismantle.
That’s why a new approach to health care equity funding is desperately needed now to both change the system and model how to change the system. (author introduction) #P4HEwebinarOctober2023