A New President and a New Diabetes Push: Changes at John A. Hartford Foundation

As the John A. Hartford Foundation points out, the elderly are not the target demographic of most health care philanthropy in the United States. Well, this New York-based funder is trying to change that, and is also making some internal changes of its own.

Read - John A. Hartford Foundation: Grants for Public Health

The foundation recently announced that Terry Fulmer has stepped into the role of foundation president, following in the footsteps of Corinne H. Rieder, who was president from 1997 until her retirement earlier this year. The foundation recently made news with a new $860,000 grant to prevent diabetes in older adults.

“I believe that the John A. Hartford Foundation is uniquely positioned to play a leadership role in driving change that results in higher-quality, person-centered care at lower cost for the rapidly growing number of older adults and their families,” Fulmer said when the foundation announced her new role.

With a well-rounded background in teaching, researching, nursing, and administration, Fulmer most recently worked as the dean for the Bouvé College of Health Sciences and professor of public policy and urban affairs in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities at Northeastern University. She’s passionate about geriatrics and is best known as an expert on elder abuse and neglect. This isn’t a current funding strategy of the foundation, but we might see more national focus on these issues soon.

“I have the same passion today that I had when I started,” Fulmer has said. “I can’t imagine anything I’d rather do than care for older patients and teach others to care for older patients.”

But for now, the focus is on diabetes prevention. The new $860,500 grant is going to the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program to reduce the number of type 2 diabetes cases among adults over 65 by at least 70 percent. This money funds at least 1,124 YMCA program sites over the next two years. It’ll also be used to advocate policy changes regarding Medicare reimbursement for diabetes prevention programs.

There are 22 YMCA branches in New York City, as well as 100 offsite program locations. Reports estimate that the number of New York City residents over 65 will increase to 1.3 million by the year 2030.

The Hartford Foundation’s current elder care strategies are fairly broad: advancing practice innovation, interdisciplinary staff education, policy, infrastructure, and models for cost-effective care. But diabetes should remain a big focus for some time to come. Type 2 diabetes affects more than 10 million older adults and costs Medicare over $45 billion each year. Programs like this one at the YMCA are led by lifestyle coaches to teach older adults about healthy eating and how to exercise at least 150 minutes per week.

Plenty of other funders are onboard with diabetes prevention, too—in fact, that’s precisely how the Hartford Foundation found about what the Y is doing.

"We learned about the program and the work of the Y through our participation in the Social Impact Exchange, sponsored by the Growth Philanthropy Network," explained Hartford Program Director Christopher A. Langston. "This collaboration of funders is intended to bring together the substantial financial capital necessary to take evidence-based solutions to health care challenges to scale, to be able to serve all those who stand to benefit. "