(LOUISVILLE, Ky – May 3, 2017) Philanthropic organizations working to change state, local and organizational policies to improve population health will find some useful lessons from a six-year, $7 million Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky initiative, according to a report released today.

The Foundation launched its “Promoting Responsive Health Policy” initiative in 2012 with a focus on, among other priorities, helping ensure smooth implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in Kentucky, as well as on passing a statewide smoke-free law. Intervening state and federal elections shifted the political environment and state legislative priorities: the new Governor proposed significant changes in how the ACA would work in Kentucky and it became clear that a statewide smoke-free law was far less likely to pass by the end of the initiative. Two other priorities for the initiative were improving children’s health and strengthening local public health.

The independent evaluation report, conducted by the Center for Community Health and Evaluation, recommends that funders interested in investing in policy:

Clearly identify policy priorities and understand the trade-offs between specific and broad policy goals: Recognize that broad policy objectives such as “promoting responsive health policy” will allow an initiative to respond strategically to new opportunities, but also may limit impact because it’s harder to give all policy priorities equal resources and focus all grantees on a single objective.

Make your role as funder clear: Ensure that your board of directors, staff, grantees and partners understand the roles that you and your grantees each will play in advancing policy.

Build flexibility into the grant structure: Consider a variety of grant strategies to inform and influence policy at multiple levels, and make the grant structure flexible enough to allow grantees to respond to changes in the political environment. The Foundation worked as a partner with grantees, providing funding and non-financial support.

Build awareness of the broad spectrum of strategies needed: Use a developmental evaluation tool that recognizes all the steps needed to change policy to measure the success. The Foundation’s initiative included grants to advocacy organizations, as well as to nonprofit media outlets to increase coverage of health policy issues; other strategies included targeted research on the impact of policy changes and convenings that brought together diverse groups to align their goals.

Consider long-term grants to build capacity: The Foundation gave one-year grants renewable for up to five years, and allowed mid-year adjustments, to enable grantees to build their own infrastructure and skills so they could be more effective, both during the grant period and beyond.

Under the initiative, the Foundation provided grants to a diverse cohort of organizations: Kentucky Voices for Health, Kentucky Equal Justice Center, Kentucky Center for Smoke-free Policy, Kentucky Population Health Institute, Kentucky Youth Advocates, Louisville Public Media, Kentucky Educational Television, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, and Kentucky News Connection. In addition, the Foundation commissioned a study assessing the implementation of the ACA in Kentucky (reports from that study are found here). The cost of the initiative, including grants, staff support, programs, conferences, training and research, totaled $7,035,101.

A copy of the health policy initiative evaluation report, “Toward a Healthier Kentucky: Using Research and Relationships to Promote Responsive Health Policy,” is available here .

About the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky
Since the Foundation opened its doors in 2001, it has invested nearly $26.7 million in health policy research and advocacy, as well as demonstration project grants across the Commonwealth. Funded by an endowment, the mission of the nonpartisan Foundation is to address the unmet health needs of Kentuckians by developing and influencing policy, improving access to care, reducing health risks and disparities, and promoting health equity. Follow the Foundation on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and visit our website at www.healthy-ky.org.
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