David Fukuzawa, The Kresge Foundation

TITLE: Managing Director, Health

FUNDING AREAS: Access to healthcare, community health partnerships, food insecurity, and healthy housing and environments

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IP TAKE: Through the experience and knowledge he has gained over his career, Fukuzawa has been a leader in the strategic changes and redesign of Kresge's approach to health-related grantmaking.

PROFILE: David Fukuzawa, managing director of The Kresge Foundation's Health program, is no slouch. Not only does he have more than 20 years' experience in philanthropic work, but he also holds a bachelor's degree from Yale, a master of divinity degree from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, and a master of science in administration from Central Michigan University.

Like Kresge's president, Rip Rapson, Fukuzawa is not originally from Detroit. But unlike Rapson, he has been a part of the city for more than 30 years. After finishing up at seminary, Fukuzawa moved to Detroit to work with young people living on the streets. Although the kids he helped presumably learned a great deal from Fukuzawa, he also learned a great deal from them—namely, the cause, source, and vicious cycle of drug-related violence in urban neighborhoods.

It may help to paint a picture of Detroit in the 1980s for those who have only seen the city in the news or the movies, or heard it romanticized in song lyrics. The crack-cocaine invasion was in full swing, and experts estimate the value of the U.S. cocaine business alone at $140 billion. In Detroit, cocaine-related emergency room visits increased six-fold from 1985 to 1987, and narcotics-violation arrests nearly doubled from 1986 to 1988.  Fukuzawa was in the trenches of the city during this time.

Today, Detroit tops the lists as one the most violent cities in America. Fukuzawa has remained staunchly, maybe even a little bit stubbornly (in the best sense of the word), in the middle of the chaos. Putting his experience into writing, he co-authored a New Detroit Inc. (NDI) booklet titled Drug Free Neighborhoods: How we can do it. This booklet was reprinted by the Michigan Substance Abuse and Traffic Safety Information Center with a new title, Creating Drug Free Neighborhoods in Michigan: How We Can Do It.

Before transitioning into philanthropic, Fukuzawa served as director of human needs at NDI. During his tenure, he was responsible for policy analysis and development for welfare and health-care reform. He also served as NDI’s liaison to the Michigan legislature regarding liability and tort reform and its effect on Detroit doctors, and he spearheaded the first school-based health centers in the Detroit Public Schools system, a project funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Fukuzawa began his philanthropic work in 1990, as a program officer at the Skillman Foundation. This Detroit-based foundation focuses on child and youth health, awarding an average of $22 million in grants annually. While at Skillman, Fukuzawa led the foundation's major initiative addressing the lack of safe and accessible out-of-school opportunities for Detroit youth. Fukuzawa already knew that the lack of safe after-school opportunities for young people was a major contributor to Detroit's high rate of violence, juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, and teen pregnancy.

Fukuzawa left Skillman in 2000 to become a program officer at The Kresge Foundation. In 2002 he helped develop the foundation's Special Opportunities Initiative. What made this initiative different from the others at Kresge was its focus on high-impact foundations working with underserved and vulnerable populations that did not or could not qualify under Kresge's Challenge Grant program. After developing it, Fukuzawa set out to manage the initiative.

In June 2008, The Kresge Foundation announced the formation of its Health and Environment programs. Fukuzawa began as a team leader for the newly formed Health program, eventually became the program's director, and now its managing director.

Similar to the programs Fukuzawa worked on at the Skillman Foundation, Kresge's Health program focuses on vulnerable children and young people, with the overall goal of reducing health disparities for low-income and vulnerable populations. Kresge seeks to accomplish this goal by working to improve the environmental and social factors affecting low-income and vulnerable communities and by improving access to high-quality healthcare.

Of the strategic changes that have occurred at Kresge lately, Fukuzawa states:

For most of Kresge's history, our investments in health have been in support of capital projects. That has changed dramatically — we now have a clearly defined focus on health equity. We are working to reduce the effects of pollution and toxins on vulnerable communities and to address other policy and environmental issues adversely affecting disadvantaged and low-income populations, from food systems and built environment to the improvement and expansion of the healthcare safety net.

Fukuzawa has also written eloquently for the Detroit Free Press on the interconnectedness of education and health in young, underserved populations.

Fukuzawa is involved in other grantmaking endeavors as well, serving as a board member for Grant Makers In Health and as a steering committee member of the Health & Enivornmental Funders Network.