By identifying community health trends, forming collaborative partnerships, and providing strategic grant funding, the Independence Blue Cross Foundation invests in community organizations to improve health through sustainable programs and services. This thoughtful approach to relationships and resources improves the health and wellness of our neighborhoods.
Whether we are working with neighborhood organizations to support healthier lifestyles, strengthening the delivery of health care, bolstering the health care workforce, or convening nationally respected thought leaders to share ideas and strategies, the success of the Independence Blue Cross Foundation rests on the strength of our partnerships. We are proud of the Foundation’s remarkable accomplishments in 2013, and most of all we take pride in the robust relationships we’ve built throughout our community based on trust, sharing knowledge, and a joint sense of mission.
As we reflect on our second full year in this 2013 report to the community, ”Leading Solutions for Healthier Communities,” we are excited to lead sustainable solutions to improve the health and wellness of our neighborhoods. We awarded $4.5 million to 109 grantees in 2013, each supporting a program that meets a specific, critical need to build the health of our community. In this report, we’ve chosen to focus on a few key initiatives that most fully represent the essence of what we do: bring experts and resources together to address serious issues in the health of our community.
We celebrate the expansion of several of our bold initiatives. Consider the Independence Blue Cross Foundation Healthy Futures Initiative, now bringing a unique combination of fitness, nutrition, and preventive health to 20 elementary schools in all five counties of southeastern Pennsylvania. Or look more closely at Nurses for Tomorrow, which is bolstering the health care workforce through education, career development, and research. As these programs have expanded, so too has our Foundation footprint, and together with our partners we are making a positive impact on the health and wellness of our neighbors.
Over the past year, we’ve also reached beyond our five-county region to invite distinguished, nationally recognized health care leaders from throughout the country to discuss the future of community health under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) at our first Independence Blue Cross Foundation forum, “Neighborhood Strategies to National Solutions.” This well-attended event helped prepare community health professionals and providers for the post-ACA era by highlighting regional strategies that can be replicated nationally and by exploring the synergies among nursing, community health care, and medical organizations in collaboratively addressing community health issues.
As a companion piece to our conference, the fall issue of our award-winning publication, Journal of Change, titled “The Journey of Health Care Reform,” also drew upon the wisdom and experience of local and national health care experts to discuss challenges and solutions in community health under the ACA.
2013 was an incredibly productive and collaborative year, and we have many to thank for its success: our colleagues, our grantees, and the leaders in health who have committed their knowledge and passion to improve the health and wellness of our neighborhoods and beyond. As we continue to lead, our positive impact in the community continues to grow. We are grateful to those who have been a part of the Independence Blue Cross Foundation’s remarkable first two years.
President and CEO
Independence Blue Cross
Independence Blue Cross Foundation
The Independence Blue Cross Foundation is a charitable private foundation that funds programs and initiatives that increase access to health care in medically underserved areas, bolster the health care workforce, and build healthy communities. The greatest and most lasting impact to improving health in our community happens because of our strategic giving approach through the following grant programs:
We are proud of the long-standing and new partnerships we’ve forged in our community. By collaborating with local, regional, and national leaders and investing valuable Foundation resources, we’re improving the health and well-being of our neighborhoods. The programs we support are creating sustainable solutions to some of the most significant issues in community health.
Convening leaders to network, share best practices, and create new opportunities is a cornerstone of our mission at the Foundation. In September, 220 health care industry professionals attended our first Independence Blue Cross Foundation Forum, “Neighborhood Strategies to National Solutions.” Presenters from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, the National Association of Community Health Centers, the National League for Nursing, and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation addressed critical issues surrounding health care delivery in the era of the Affordable Care Act.
Working together, we can lead solutions for healthier communities.
Expanding the number of qualified health care professionals is a community health issue. Through Nurses for Tomorrow, which supports nursing students pursuing faculty roles or clinical practice and fosters exciting partnerships with respected experts in nursing education, we are leading solutions with measurable impact.
In 2013, we continued funding $1.2 million in nursing scholarships and internships. Our priority is to prepare the next generation of nurses by accelerating their ability to complete their nursing education. We partnered with 22 nursing schools in our region, providing scholarship grants for undergraduate and graduate nursing students and summer nursing internships.
By identifying issues, finding the right partners, thinking progressively, and acting decisively, we are leading solutions for a healthier community. In 2013, we launched a partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the nation’s largest philanthropic organization devoted to health and health care. We are a founding funder of the RWJF Future of Nursing Scholars Program, designed to increase the number of Ph.D.-prepared nurses in the United States.
Wellness requires not only treating illness when it occurs, but also preventing disease by leading a healthy lifestyle. As part of our Building Healthy Communities grant program, we’re investing in a program that teaches children to develop healthy habits early in life: maintaining a good diet, exercising regularly, and making preventive care a priority.
By bringing together partners who understand the needs of children in our community, we are creating a force for better health. The Independence Blue Cross Foundation Healthy Futures Initiative is a three-year, $3 million innovative program and research study to improve childhood health and wellness and reduce childhood obesity.
Through Healthy Futures, we are bringing childhood wellness and obesity prevention programs to elementary schools — an ideal setting since it’s where children spend so much time. In 2013, we built relationships with 20 elementary schools in southeastern Pennsylvania, working with our eight wellness partners to encourage the children to eat right, get fit, and stay well.
Working together with Greener Partners and the Vetri Foundation for Children, we’re encouraging children to adopt healthier eating habits.
Greener Partners’ Farm Explorer program inspires children to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables through a fun, hands-on curriculum combining nutrition and gardening. A 24-foot custom-built trailer, FARM EXPLORER™, equipped with garden beds and a mobile kitchen, travels to the schools in the Healthy Futures program, bringing the farm experience to the children.
Through Vetri’s Eatiquette program, a revolutionary approach to school lunch, children enjoy healthy cuisine during a lunch served family-style. In 2013, more than 700 children participated in Eatiquette, consuming more than 5,000 healthy lunches through the Independence Blue Cross Foundation Healthy Futures program.
“By introducing healthy foods that taste good, as well as new approaches that make sitting down to a meal fun and educational, we can give kids a chance to turn [childhood obesity] around, changing their lives and their futures in the process,” says Marc Vetri, a Philadelphia restaurateur and cofounder of the Vetri Foundation for Children.
Get Fit teaches children the importance of physical activity and inspires them to make fitness a part of their daily lives — at school and at home. Get Fit activities include additional school fitness programs, community events, and visits from Philadelphia Union coaches and players.
As children begin to implement changes in their diets, they are also being taught firsthand the importance of staying fit with lively, fun workouts led by the Philadelphia Union, our region’s professional soccer team. In addition, personal training instruction is provided by Fit Essentials, another Get Fit partner, teaching the children fun ways to incorporate exercise into their daily routines. Learning how diet and exercise come together to reduce weight and improve health is the key to preventing diseases such as hypertension, asthma, and type 2 diabetes in adulthood.
“I think it is the fun factor, friendly competition, and leader involvement,” says Don Baxter, president of Fit Essentials, Inc. “The fun factor always wins. If it is fun, kids will do it. Competition is evident in almost every activity. If they are not challenging one another, then they are challenging themselves expecting future improvements.”
Through the Independence Blue Cross Foundation Healthy Futures Initiative, we’re teaching children the importance of regular preventive care. Stay Well aims to increase school preventive health screening rates and reduce absences due to chronic illnesses, such as asthma and diabetes.
Healthy Futures ensures that students receive all the required health screenings and physicals, and provides additional wellness education based on the specific needs of the school community. To achieve this, we’ve partnered with our nation’s top-ranked children’s hospital, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). CHOP is building a brighter future for children by collaborating with school nurses throughout the region and providing nurses to schools to assist with screenings, education, and other preventive health measures.
At Philadelphia’s Global Leadership Academy, one of our Healthy Futures schools, students are already experiencing a difference. Dr. Naomi Booker, the charter school’s CEO, says, “As both educators and community members, we care about the futures of our students, so working with the Independence Blue Cross Foundation and its partners to ensure that those futures are brighter, happier, and healthier is a great honor.”
The Independence Blue Cross Foundation is a charitable private foundation whose mission is leading solutions for a healthier community.