The Kaiser Permanente Community Fund:
Focusing on where health begins.
The Kaiser Permanente Community Fund at Northwest Health Foundation is a twelve-year, sunset fund with a mission to improve the health of communities throughout the Kaiser Permanente Northwest service region, with a specific focus on addressing the “upstream” factors that create or inhibit community health, also known as the social determinants of health.
Focusing & Extending the Fund
KPCF was created as a ten-year, sunset fund when Kaiser Permanente Northwest established it in 2004 with $28 million. To date, it has awarded $22.5 million in grants to more than 170 organizations in Oregon and SW Washington.
Since the first grant cycle in 2005, the Fund has seen a consistent increase in the number and quality of funding requests, as well as a deeper community appreciation of social determinants of health. Over the years, we have witnessed a broadened understanding of how non-medical factors influence health, and a reframing of how health is perceived and achieved in our region.
In 2013, KPCF Advisors identified guiding values and three focus areas to direct the work in the remaining years of the fund.
These five guiding values inform the work of KPCF:
- Promoting social and racial equity;
- Prioritizing community-driven strategies;
- Promoting social cohesion;
- Addressing the systemic causes of health outcomes and disparities; and
- Strategically and appropriately applying the evidence base.
The guiding values help direct the work in three focus areas: early life & childhood development, educational attainment and economic opportunity.
In 2014, Kaiser Permanente committed to extend the fund through two additional and final grant cycles in 2015 & 2016, committing to impact through 2019.
Early Life & Childhood Development
Research has long established the critical role that the first few years of a child’s life play in their lifelong health, as well as their educational, economic and social success. Several KPCF grantees have focused their efforts on expanding access to quality early childhood development programs in order to set children on a positive life course.
The Fund will help ensure that children, families, and communities have the best opportunities to thrive. The Fund seeks to reduce health disparities as early in life as possible by strengthening the foundations of health and the community capacity to influence these conditions. The Fund’s investments will stimulate and enable communities to pursue wrap-around, culturally responsive, and socio-ecological approaches to prenatal and early childhood policies and interventions.
Few factors influence health more than educational attainment. For example, Americans with a college degree can expect to live nearly six years longer - with better overall health - than those who do not graduate from high school. Educational attainment rates vary greatly by race, ethnicity and socio-economic status in our region, and a number of our grantees are working to close these gaps and create better outcomes for all students.
The Fund will support initiatives that ensure that 100% of youth will graduate from high school and will be ready for college and careers. The Fund will support and expand efforts to ensure that parents, families, communities, schools, and policy makers are working together to eliminate barriers to educational achievement. These investments will result in policy, systemic, and institutional culture change that reflects the belief that every child can succeed.
A healthy region requires a healthy economy. Access to stable, family-wage jobs has been shown to positively affect health, while a dearth of such opportunities compromises health. Our prolonged economic slump has revealed the limits of traditional top-down economic development strategies, which often leave behind those who could most benefit from more intentional efforts. Several KPCF grantees have created opportunities for economic advancement using more targeted, community-driven approaches, with encouraging results.
The Fund will invest in populations disproportionately impacted by poverty so that we can transform today’s inequalities into quality of life for all families and communities. The Fund’s investments will generate opportunities for community-driven solutions to align and partner with larger economic development efforts that support sustainable, living wage jobs and entrepreneurism. The Fund will also invest in strategies that utilize the strengths of our diversity and that build social cohesion among stakeholders as an equally important outcome.
The 2014 KPCF grant cycle is now closed. This year we received 153 LOIs, a record number! 35 applicants were invited to submit full proposals. Final decisions are being made and applicants will be notified by December 12.
During the last two weeks of April, we held four information sessions about the 2014 KPCF cycle. This was an opportunity for organizations and community members to learn more about the Fund’s strategies and priorities.
Did you miss them? NWHF Community Engagement Officer Michael Reyes Andrillon has recorded this webinar to answer your questions.
We've collected research related to the KPCF focus areas as well as strategies to improve the social determinants of health and health equity. View KPCF resources here.