Northwest Health Foundation is a nonprofit foundation that seeks to advance, support, and promote the health of the people of Oregon and southwest Washington. We achieve our mission through a variety of means, including grantmaking, technical assistance and training, convening, commissioning research, and supporting policy advocacy.
Our work covers the entire state of Oregon, as well as Clark, Cowlitz, Pacific, Skamania, and Wahkiakum counties in southwest Washington.
In our first 10 years, Northwest Health Foundation provided grants to organizations with immediate needs such as equipment, direct service delivery, and organizational capacity building. Grantmaking remains a core function of the Foundation, but we are now applying a greater focus on more preventive grantmaking strategies that encourage the social and environmental conditions that enable everyone to live a healthy and productive life.
To be eligible to apply for Northwest Health Foundation grants, organizations must sign a statement of non-discrimination in leadership, staffing, and services.
Northwest Health Foundation makes a difference not simply through responsive, competitive grant cycles, but also through activities like convening, which can play just as vital a role while consuming fewer grant dollars. For example, in 2008, we brought together a number of health funders that were unaware of the primary care home model. Under the Funders Forum banner, we connected these grantmakers with groups implementing a primary care home model so they could learn how it works, share their knowledge and incubate new ideas. We hope to see the relationships between organizations working in this area strengthened even as our communities’ access to health care improves.
Behind the scenes of the public discussion about increasing health care access and reforming the system, an informal group of organizations — including consumers, providers, insurers, underserved populations, business, and faith-based communities — has been working to set their individual agendas aside and speak with one voice about the need for comprehensive health care reform. This group is called the Oregon Health Reform Collaborative. Convened jointly by the Northwest Health Foundation and the Oregon Health Policy Commission, the Oregon Health Reform Collaborative has been meeting since early 2006 to find ways to develop a common vision and message for a vastly improved health care system in Oregon.
In 2007, the Northwest Health Foundation board of directors decided that in order to most effectively improve the health of the people of Oregon and southwest Washington, we must become involved in legislative and campaign advocacy for issues that affect health.
As Paul Krissel, former board chair wrote, “becoming a policy advocate is hardly straightforward. Even when some issues are relatively uncontroversial, the prospect of getting involved raises several questions: How do we mobilize a constituency to press for good legislation? How does a funder choose which issues to take on? What is the process for getting to consensus? How do we insulate ourselves from resistance or attack from the opposition? How can we get better at achieving systemic change?”
These are issues we continue to deal with today. Nevertheless, we know that preventable conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and many cancers continue to harm us, racial and ethnic health disparities persist among different communities, and the health care system continues to fail hundreds of thousands
In order to be true to our core mission, it has become increasingly clear to Northwest Health Foundation that we must be willing to advocate for sound public policy. We currently do this by funding independent advocacy efforts, as well as advocacy efforts commissioned directly by the Foundation.
Northwest Health Foundation is a trusted resource for other philanthropic organizations, nonprofit health conversions and donors interested in developing a health philanthropy program. We currently service large philanthropic programs, such as the donor-advised Kaiser Permanente Community Fund and a nationwide partnership with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (“Partners Investing in Nursing’s Future”), along with other smaller funds. More information on these services can be found here.