A Funding Effort on the Cutting Edge of Public Health, With an Eye on Data

Ever since BUILD Health came on the scene, it’s had our attention. It’s ambitious, integrative, and it’s taking aim at a huge roadblock to implementing basic health care improvements in this country: data.

Last year, when this effort launched, we talked to Brian Castrucci, chief program and strategy officer at the de Beaumont Foundation, one of the collaborators on BUILD. He explained the focus on data with this example: “If you look up numbers for diabetes, you’re getting a rate about two years old, that represents a sample with about a 35 percent response rate... We’ve put people on the Moon. We go to other planets, we come back, but the best data for diabetes prevalence is two years old and self-reported!”

BUILD Health, (the acronym stands for Bold, Upstream, Integrated, Local, Data-driven) is one of those ambitious funder collaboratives that aims to torpedo barriers to public health improvements by getting people out of their silos and making vital connections—across disciplines, sectors, and institutions. 

Related: What This New Funder Collaborative Says About the State of Public Health in the U.S.

That's never easy, but there's some real firepower behind this thing: RWJF, Kresge, and the Colorado Health Foundation are the other foundation partners, and a giant consulting firm, the Advisory Board Company, is also in the mix. BUILD Health has $7.5 million to spend, and it's seeking collaborative projects that can get at the “upstream” causes of things like asthma, diabetes: access to good food, clean air, safe places to be outside.

If those sound like the ingredients of the "culture of health" that RWJF is always talking up, you're exactly right. Of course, Kresge is another big health funder looking upstream at how to promote better health, and the Colorado Health Foundation is doing the same at the state level, so it's no surprise to find these three funders collaborating here.


As BUILD moves into the implementation phase of things, we’re watching carefully to see where and when it spends its funds. Just last week, it announced grants totaling nearly $2.6 million to 18 projects aimed at improving health in low-income communities.

The grants break down into two categories: First, seven organizations received two-year, $250,000 grants designed to strengthen programs that already exist. The money will help them have a bigger impact by taking a more advanced approach to analytics. In addition, the partnering health system on each implementation award has committed to matching the grants with financial and in-kind support. 

In addition, eleven organizations are receiving planning grants—one year, $75,000 gifts designed to kick off projects addressing specific health challenges.

There are too many grantees to list here, but it's worth taking a look at the full list of the projects supported to get a sense of what's happening at the cutting edge of collaborative public health efforts.