Promoting a culture of health: Funding sources

Improving health in communities has gained in interest and momentum. To take on local needs, health systems and public health entities are forming collaborations with others. The webcast Unique insights and approaches to population health highlighted the findings of a study of 12 such collaborations.

The basis for the webcast is the study Improving Community Health through Hospital-Public Health Collaborations, released in late 2014.
The webcast provides proven recommendations for hospitals and health systems to consider for their current or potential partnerships. Leading the webcast discussion were the study’s principal investigator Dr. Lawrence Prybil, the Norton Professor in Healthcare Leadership and associate dean of the University of Kentucky College of Public Health, and study contributor and Grant Thornton LLP Health Care National Managing Partner Anne McGeorge. The webcast moderator was John Summerlin, senior manager in Grant Thornton’s Health Care Advisory Services practice.

This section of the webcast Q&A describes the steps in setting goals, tracking metrics and communicating progress, and why they are essential to a successful partnership.

Recommendation #9
To enhance sustainability, all partnerships focused on community health improvement should develop a deliberate strategy for broadening and diversifying their sources of funding support.

In talking about metrics, I think about some of our clients and some of the work we’ve done to establish statewide health information exchanges. Often the greatest challenge is not their ability to define their mission or their goals or what they want to impact, but to find the funding to support that mission. What are the typical sources of funding, what is the typical split of funding among participants? What are some other kinds of more sustainable funding sources — funding sources that haven’t yet come to the table but that clearly have a place in any of these partnerships?

Impact statements
It’s a huge question. Remember, these are voluntary partnerships of independent parties coming together to focus on a common goal of improving health of the communities. There is a section in the report where we lay all that out.

Somewhat surprising, but I think encouraging, is that 80% of the current funding of these partnerships comes from the private sector. And 70% of all that funding comes from hospitals and systems.

Only 20% comes from governmental sources. Some of these partnerships have major CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] grants. But up to this point, I give credit to America’s health systems for stepping up.

But is that sustainable? We have recommendations in the report about moving toward greater sustainability. We think that all these partnerships benefit from having what we’d call anchor partners, anchor institutions who really make a commitment. Like Maine Health, a nonprofit system based in Portland; the board of Maine Health is committed to community health improvement, and they are putting major resources into their local community partnerships.

One of our recommendations is for partnerships to develop impact statements, where they document what they are doing and the progress they’re making and the benefits they’re achieving in relation to their costs. You’ve got to demonstrate you’re making a difference. That gets back to metrics.

To have a sustainable funding strategy, you’ve got to broaden the base, and you’ve got to have impact statements that prove that you are making a difference.

What can partnerships do to reach out to other funding sources?


The communication of some of the success factors will be key in getting good publicity for the partnerships into the community, which could cause additional potential partners to come forward.

Reaching out formally to some of the community foundations and to private foundations — we have a number of them right here in North Carolina that specifically set aside funds for initiatives such as this. They could be state-specific foundations or they could be larger national foundations.

Grants are a way to gain initial and intermediate funding, but probably not a long-term, sustainable type of objective. You want to team with partners that could commit to continue sustainable funding — United Way or YMCAs or, more likely, employers and health plans.

I think that’s where partnerships will have to go to get true, sustainable funding.


See Promoting a culture of health for the introduction to the Q&A. See also the study report, Improving Community Health through Hospital-Public Health Collaborations.