Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky invested more than $3.1 million in 2015 toward improving the health of Kentuckians

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky invested more than $3.1 million in 2015 to help communities and health policy advocates improve the health of Kentuckians, according to its annual report. The report also suggested that Kentucky is experiencing turbulence in health care.

“In turbulent times, it may be tempting to seek shelter and hope the danger passes,” Susan Zepeda, outgoing president and CEO of the foundation, wrote in her opening remarks.”But
unlike tornado season, these times call for all who care about the health of Kentuckians
to be informed and engaged in shaping a future where all residents have access to
safe, effective, affordable health care.”

Zepeda was likely referring to Gov. Matt Bevin’s Medicaid plan that would require participants to pay premiums and have a higher level of involvement in their care, including “community engagement and employment activities” for able-bodied adults who aren’t primary caregivers of dependents; the impending shut-down of Kynect, the state’s online health insurance exchange, and the resulting shift to the federal exchange; and the ongoing issues with Benefind, a recently launched one-stop-shop website for state benefits.

The report notes that the two primary initiatives of the foundation include Promoting Responsive Health Policy, which provides grants to “help strong, statewide health advocacy organizations work together for increased impact,” and Investing in Kentucky’s Future, which provides grants to “support community-designed solutions to problems like childhood obesity and adverse childhood experiences.”

The Investing in Kentucky’s Future grantees include: Partnership for a Healthy McLean County, Purchase Area Connections for Health, Fitness for Life Around Grant County, Breathitt County Health Planning Council for Children, Perry County Wellness Coalition, Clinton County Healthy Hometown Coalition, all of which focus on childhood obesity and Bounce Coalition in Jefferson County, which focuses on adverse childhood experiences.

The Promoting Responsive Health Policy Initiative included funding work of the Kentucky Center for Smoke-free Policy, Kentucky Voices for Health, Kentucky Youth Advocates, the Kentucky Population Health Institute and the Kentucky Equal Justice Center.

The foundation was created in 2001 from the charitable assets of Anthem Inc., recovered in a lawsuit by then-Attorney General Ben Chandler, after the company converted from a mutual insurance firm to a stock company. Under the settlement, the $45 million was invested and only the earnings from it may be spent. Since 2001, the foundation has awarded nearly $25.5 million in grants with $1,669,367 awarded in 2015.

Illustration from annual report

The foundation’s mission is to “address the unmet health-care needs of Kentuckians by informing and influencing health policy, improving access to care, reducing health risks and disparities, and promoting health equity,” says the release.

The foundation hosts several policy meetings including its biennial Data! Forum and its annual Howard L. Bost Memorial Health Policy Forum. It also host regular “Health for a Change” training workshops and webinars and has provided free conference and meeting space to more than 40 health-related not-for-profit organizations this year.

The foundation funds research to inform health policy, including a study that looked at the benefits and challenges associated with Kentucky’s transition to Medicaid managed care and another that goes through January 2018 that evaluates how federal health reform affects coverage, access, cost, quality and health outcomes in the state.

The foundation, along with Cincinnati-based Interact for Health, also conducts the annual Kentucky Health Issues Poll, which found, among other things, that fewer Kentucky adults were delaying or skipping medical care due to costs, and that a majority of Kentuckians support a state-wide smoking ban, as well as smoke-free schools.

The foundation also works to increase health coverage in the state through its partnerships with Kentucky Educational Television, Louisville Public Media and The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky, which publishes Kentucky Health News.

“The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky has become known as an innovator in several aspects of health philanthropy,” Zepeda said. “We are recognized for building the capacity of Foundation grantees to create meaningful health policy changes through a mix of approaches. These include combining multi-year funding with training and technical assistance, funding and sharing research, and gatherings of diverse stakeholders to learn from one another and collaborate.”

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