Healthy Beginnings, Healthy Communities is a 5-year initiative supporting communities' ability to create and enact a vision for healthier outcomes in the early years of life.


Michael McDermott, Friends of the Children

Michael McDermott, Friends of the Children

In the past 15 years, Northwest Health Foundation has made progress and learned much in the pursuit of our mission to advance, support, and promote the health of the people of Oregon and SW Washington. We have refined our community-based partnership model, fostered policy advocacy and leadership development, and demonstrated measurable improvement in health outcomes and health equity, both locally and statewide. We have invested more than $80 million, and formed partnerships that have produced positive change in nursing, public health, health care transformation, and the root causes of health and wellness.

However, we know our work is not done. The health disparities that many Oregon and SW Washington communities face are multi-generational, and we are committed to serving our communities for generations. Our successes have taught us the need to nurture our resources wisely, balancing today’s needs with those of the future.

As a result, we are taking steps to be a more nimble, focused foundation. This will allow us to put our resources into the hands of those best-equipped to address health—our many partners throughout Oregon and SW Washington.


To hone our focus and establish this flexibility, we have crafted an initiative, which is still in its early planning stages, but that builds on existing resources, reduces internal costs, aligns with our broad vision of health, and ultimately allows us to deliver more resources to our communities.

This initiative, which we call Healthy Beginnings, Healthy Communities, emphasizes issues that impact health in the early years of life.

Why this focus

Research has shown that addressing health issues early on in life has significant impact in both the short- and long-term. Investments in childhood health provide lasting individual and community benefits, and focusing our efforts and partnerships in this direction will allow the foundation to maximize the impact of our resources for generations to come.

Our initiative identifies key transitions in childhood—birth, kindergarten readiness, and ninth-grade readiness—around which we align our work and partnerships, focused on addressing the many interconnected factors that contribute to healthy communities.

For example, poor oral health is a significant cause of missed school days, inattention, and even discipline for young children, making it difficult for many to learn and excel. But the root causes of this health issue are many. Research has shown that the causes of poor oral health in children can stem from direct issues like lack of proper brushing or fluoride treatment, as well as from indirect causes like exposure to family violence, abuse, or neglect.

From the living room to the classroom, direct and indirect causes affect health in early life. Our initiative will address both, and as each community defines them.


Community-based initiatives.  We will establish long-term partnerships with several communities—that self-identify as a community by geography, identity, or experience—to develop and implement efforts to improve health for their children and families.

Regional improvements in health. We will advance two to four visible, tangible improvements in childhood health that have been informed by communities, that deliver concrete health benefits, that can be implemented statewide or in multiple communities across the region, and that have the potential to inspire community engagement and leadership development.

Policy advocacy and leadership development. We will invest in the leadership of community partners to engage in policy development, strategy and advocacy that leads to the passage of statewide policies which will ultimately impact child health in Oregon. 




We believe that communities are the best advocates for their own health. They should drive changes in health and they hold the best answers and strategies to do so.

We also believe that communities benefit from tangible, inspiring, and self-determined improvements that promote health. Such improvements reinforce that everyone has the power to influence the health of their family, their community, and themselves.

For lasting improvements in health to occur, multiple partners among and across communities will need to work together on common goals.  To support community-led change, we will invest in leadership development and strengthen individual and organizational capacity.  To address health throughout Oregon and SW Washington, we will invest in civic engagement that advances policy and social change. We will ensure that these efforts reinforce each other, and we will help foster the long-term partnerships across diverse stakeholders that will deliver concrete health benefits in people’s daily lives.


Northwest Health Foundation has been visiting communities throughout Oregon & SW Washington to hear the diverse ways health issues and health disparities affect them. While each community’s health challenges are unique, collectively they reinforce our new initiative. We know we are on the right track, but we have many questions that only our partners across the state can help us answer. The process is ongoing, and we are regularly presenting ideas and soliciting feedback during this community engagement process, both in-person and online. The results of these discussions will inform our draft funding plans, which we hope to share in early 2014. Thank you for your patience and support during this exciting time for the foundation.


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