By Todd Cohen
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Two-and-a-half years after the merger that produced it, the Moses Cone-Wesley Long Community Health Foundation has ambitious plans to make a big impact on the region’s health care.
“We’re looking forward to being a major long-term player in the health arena in our community,” says Bob Newton, the foundation’s president.
The foundation, which has $128 million in assets and hands out $5 million in grants a year, focuses its charity on improving the health of residents in the geographic area served by the Moses Cone Health System, mainly Greensboro and Guilford County.
The foundation’s funding priorities are disease prevention and health education; access to health services by underserved groups; and helping the community strengthen its ability to take care of itself.
Unlike private foundations, the Moses Cone-Wesley Long foundation is a public charity whose activities are tied to the mission and purposes of Moses Cone Health System.
As a result, while the foundation can make grants Guilford, Rockingham, Randolph, Alamance and Forsyth counties, it generally has confined its giving to the primary market served by Moses Cone –- Greensboro and Guilford County.
The other counties, as well as High Point, are considered secondary markets because each has a separate hospital and health system that are the primary health-care providers there, says Newton, who was chief financial officer of the Moses Cone Health System.
“We’re going to follow the lead of the health system into the secondary markets,” he says, with efforts outside Greensboro generally reflecting partnerships with primary care facilities in other communities.
The foundation is the offspring of the October 1997 merger of Moses Cone and Wesley Long Community Hospital.
As part of the merger, Moses Cone agreed to match the assets of what at the time was the Wesley Long Foundation.
In April 1999, when the match was made, the Wesley Long Foundation’s assets alone totaled $59 million.
The foundation, which later changed its name to reflect the merger, has a staff of six people and a board of 17.
The board of the health system appoints eight members of the foundation board, which appoints seven other members. The chairman and vice chairman of the health system also serve.
The foundation wants its grantmaking – which began in October 1998 and take place throughout the year — to be “strategic” and improve the health-care system overall, Newton says.
“It’s the difference between handing out fish and teaching people to fish,” Newton says.
The foundations’ largest grant so far, for example, was $2.4 million last fall to Moses Cone Health System for a multi-year project to prevent heart disease.
The grant aims to improve the lifestyles and behaviors of Guilford County residents through a series of programs that aim to help people stop smoking, improve their diets, exercise more and keep physically fit, and undergo screening and early detection of heart disease.
The foundation also looks for collaborative projects that “bring as many resources of the community together as possible to avoid duplication,” Newton says.
In January, for example, the foundation approved a $1.9 million grant to the Guilford County Health Department in partnership with Health Serve Ministry to support low-income people who need ongoing medications for hypertension, diabetes, asthma or congestive heart failure.
In addition, the foundation aims to fund projects that can create permanent changes in health care. And rather than simply responding to grant requests, the foundation wants to be “more actively involved in fewer projects more sharply focused on specific issues,” Newton says.
The foundation’s liaison committee, for example, has held about half-a-dozen roundtable discussions with groups such as residents of elderly housing and public housing and people involved with drug-abuse issues.
The foundation plans soon to create its own Web presence, and initially can be found at the Moses Cone site at www.mosescone.com.
For information, call the foundation at 336-832-1200.