Tackling Health from All Angles: What's Up at the Episcopal Health Foundation?

We’ve been following the Episcopal Health Foundation (EHF) lately as it’s been expanding its grantmaking in Southeast Texas and really making waves on the local funding scene in a short amount of time. This funder’s dedication to rural healthcare access and mental health have made it stand out among other health foundations in the state. And as we pointed out earlier this year, local grantmaking has trended towards support for uninsured Texans, capacity building, low-income city neighborhoods, and root causes of health disparities.

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But with EHF’s most recent grant cycle, we’re seeing a trend that’s been catching on quickly among health funders all across the country. This trend is all about approaching health from various perspectives and crossing over into other issue areas—like housing, transportation, and food systems, that ultimately affect health outcomes.

Elena Marks, EHF’s president and CEO, made the following statement in a press release:

If we want to truly tackle the health crisis facing Texas, then we need a new approach that addresses health from all angles. Many of these grants go beyond a doctor’s office, and focus on enabling communities to change the systems that influence and shape their health. What good does it do to treat people in a doctor’s office, if we keep sending them back to the conditions that made them sick in the first place. These grants take an important step in helping communities stand up and advocate for long-lasting change for their own health.

This is a compelling approach to health funding because the root causes of poverty are the same ones that impact community health. Health funders like EHF are saying goodbye to the old days of philanthropy when health funding just meant big gifts to hospitals, clinics, and research. And with the establishment of health legacy foundations on the rise across the country, new funders are looking to trends like this to create their own grantmaking guidelines and priorities.

This is an especially powerful movement in Texas because the state has the most uninsured adults and children in America. In a huge geographical area like this, rural communities are often left to fend for themselves, and where Texans live has a huge impact on their health.  

You can see the breadth of EHF's approach in a recent round of $4.3 million in grants in June that will go to 19 new grant partners. These grants can largely be categorized in four ways:

  • Supporting community engagement
  • Addressing the health insurance coverage gap
  • Developing community leaders
  • Increasing access to health services

Among the top-earning grantees include the following:

  • $750,000 to the Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (All 57 counties) - access to care for adolescents and youth by building capacity to serve this population within Federally Qualified Health Centers and community clinics throughout the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.
  • $500,000 to Capital IDEA Houston (Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty and Montgomery counties) - expand a program designed to recruit and offer wrap-around support services to low-income adults working towards a career in health care.
  • $329,600 to Health Horizons of East Texas, Inc. (Angelina, Houston, Jasper, Nacogdoches, Newton, Polk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto Shelby, Trinity and Tyler counties) - supports administrative and clinical staff to expand services and re-brand the agency as a Rural Health Center.
  • $310,000 to BUILD Health Challenge - allows EHF to join the BUILD Health Challenge collaborative with the Kresge Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, deBeaumont Foundation and the Colorado Health Foundation to encourage community partnerships among health systems, community organizations and health departments to improve community health.

So far in 2016, EHF has awarded $6.7 million grants to organizations working in 57 Texas counties. Keep in mind that this foundation was only established three years ago in 2013, and with an estimated $1.2 billion assets, it's setting trends for other funders in this space to follow.

There are no application deadlines at EHF, so nonprofits can apply for grants at any time. The board is next expected to meet in September and December this year to make grant decisions. But before even starting your application, give the program officers a call to discuss your idea.