Kate B. Reynolds suspends health grants

By Todd Cohen

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust in Winston-Salem, one of the largest health funders in North Carolina, has suspended its health grantmaking until next spring.

It will resume making new health grants based on requests due March 15, 2007, and through the end of 2006 will continue funding grants it previously has approved.

The move comes one month after the Trust announced it would not solicit additional grant requests for the fiscal year starting September 1 to serve the financially needy in Forsyth County.

“The needs are so great, it’s simply outstripping the funds that are available,” says John H. Frank, director of the Trust’s health care division.

The Trust, with $559 million in assets and roughly $20 million in investment income each year, spends one-fourth of its income on grants to serve the poor and needy in Forsyth County, and three-fourths on grants to address health needs.

To honor health grants it already has approved, the Trust will spend $14.5 million through the fiscal year that ends August 31, and will pay out more than $9.2 million in the fiscal year that begins September 1.

In the five fiscal years that ended Aug. 31, 2005, the Trust awarded 1,368 health grants totaling nearly $97 million, Frank says.

That funding included 58 grants of up to $45,000 each, for a total of $2.6 million, to fund community-based “Healthy Carolinians” partnerships that assess community health needs, and then pick goals and set targets to address them.

The Trust also has made grants of nearly $4 million to help rural health clinics and small rural hospitals replace outdated equipment.

It also has made grants in response to a broad range of requests, particularly to improve access to dental care, medication assistance and mental-health services.

And it awarded $10 million on a competitive basis to 15 sites throughout the state that submitted proposals to help prevent chronic disease through strategies that combine nutrition education, physical activity and tobacco-cessation.

With the state’s health-care system under increasing pressure, particularly from a growing number of uninsured North Carolinians, Frank says, the Trust and other foundations face a continuing challenge trying to address escalating and wide-ranging health needs with limited resources.

“We’ve been too broad in the past, and we’re going to have to consider narrowing our focus,” he says.

Big health priorities for the Trust are strengthening rural clinics and health-care providers, and promoting preventive health care.

The $10 million initiative, for example, is one of the largest ever undertaken by the Trust.

Known as the “SELF Improvement Program” and managed by the department of community and family medicine at Duke University Medical Center, the effort included outreach, training and the delivery of services that involved thousands of activities and millions of contacts with people.

Services were delivered through 15 programs that touched over 700,000 people, including 21,000 children and adults whose progress was tracked, says Maggie Sauer, director of health promotion and disease in the community and family medicine department’s division of community health.

Poor behavior involving nutrition, physical activity and tobacco use, she says, is responsible for five of the leading chronic diseases and 75 percent of health-care spending in North Carolina and the United States.

The initiative, she says, “has laid the groundwork for healthy lifestyles that will save North Carolinians millions of health-care dollars.”

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