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Big impact – Focus on health

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By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Change is in the works at the Moses Cone-Wesley Long Community Health Foundation.

Formed through the October 1997 merger of Moses Cone Health System and Wesley Long Community Hospital, the $110 million-asset foundation has committed nearly $16.4 million to improving health in the Greensboro area.

That includes $4.4 million for 41 agencies and 55 projects in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30.

Now, as requests for grants grow and outpace its ability to fund them all, the foundation plans to revamp its grants process and focus on longer-term projects that can have a big impact, says Bob Newton, the foundation’s president.

Instead of continuing to consider requests submitted at any time that address its broad priorities, the foundation is considering creating four grant cycles a year and seek requests for projects that aim to meet particular needs the foundation targets in each cycle, Newton says.

Those needs still would fall within the foundation’s two broad priorities of wellness — health education and promotion, and disease-prevention — and access to health care.

The foundation offers two types of grants. It allocates $400,000 a year to a program administered by the United Way of Greater Greensboro that makes grants in March and September ranging from $2,000 to $50,000, and it makes grants of more than $50,000 a year.

“Our mission is improving the health of the community and figuring out what affects the health of the community,” says Newton. “The single biggest factor is behavior and life style. We’ve got to figure out a way to get people to eat better, exercise, lose weight and stop smoking.”

Because it takes time both to change behavior and to track the impact of change, he said, the foundation likely will look for longer-term, high-impact projects.

And because a growing number of groups are seeking funds while its endowment has declined as a result of previous grantmaking and the economic downturn, he says, the foundation will continue to encourage collaboration.

That will include teaming up with other funders and encouraging grantseekers to work together.

In addition to grants administered by the United Way, for example, the foundation this year gave $200,000 to the Guilford Community AIDS Partnership, which matches three-fourths of those dollars with funds from the National AIDS Fund to support local AIDS groups.

The foundation also has agreed to match up to $120,000 raised over three years by the Randolph Hospital Community Health Foundation, which makes grants to community groups.

In looking for solutions to specific health-care problems such as obesity or smoking, Newton says, the foundation increasingly will solicit proposals and then support groups that agree to join forces to address the problems.

The foundation also has worked with the Institute for Health, Science and Society at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro to create a method for evaluating grants to help ensure the success of projects it funds.

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