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Health Funders and Fiscal Policy

November 7, 2011 2:00 pm Eastern Time

GIH Public Policy Strategies Audioconference Series

Monday, November 7 at 2:00 pm eastern/ 1:00 pm central/ 12:00 pm mountain/ 11:00 am pacific

Jessica Hembree, Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City
Matt Sundeen, The Colorado Trust
Kim VanPelt, Arizona Health Futures/St. Luke's Health Initiatives

Fiscal policy issues, such as tax reforms and budgetary decision-making, can have important implications for the public-sector resources available to promote population health and well-being. This audioconference explored the role of health philanthropy in supporting research and advocacy related to these “non-traditional” policy domains. Speakers discussed how health foundations have informed and influenced fiscal policy debates and shared major lessons learned regarding this work.

Jessica Hembree led the discussion by describing the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City's efforts to increase tobacco taxes through a ballot initiative. Working as part of a multi-stakeholder coalition, led by the American Cancer Society and including physicians, business leaders and educators, the foundation has submitted a state ballot initiative to raise the cigarette tax from the current 17 cents a pack to 97 cents and establish a similar tax increases on other tobacco products. As a public charity, the foundation is able to lobby and has also sponsored a variety of advocacy efforts to inform voters about the health effects of smoking and the impact of tobacco taxes on smoking rates, particularly among young smokers.

Kim Van Pelt discussed the on-going budget crisis in the state of Arizona which experienced a 20 percent decrease in the general fund budget between FY2008 and FY2011 with additional cuts in FY2012. She described how St. Luke's Health Initiative has sought to inform residents about the health-related consequences of these budgetary decisions. In addition to convening multiple advocacy groups to coordinate messaging regarding the budget policy, the foundation has also developed a series of written reports which document the magnitude of budget cuts for health related programs, explicitly examine how these policies are affecting the people who rely on these programs and services, and offer alternatives for system change. The series includes three parts focused on (1) vulnerable citizens, (2) public health and prevention, and (3) the health care safety net.

Matt Sundeen noted that the Colorado Trust has a fairly long history of active involvement in health policy issues and has more recently recognized that the state will be unable to address these health policy priorities absent fundamental fiscal reforms to resolve chronic revenue shortfalls. He described the foundation's efforts to fund advocacy groups seeking to provide objective information related to fiscal decision-making, encourage productive collaboration among those groups, and support analytic research to model and assess policy options. Although the foundation has not taken a position on preferred solutions, this work has helped to raise the visibility of the need for fiscal reform within the state.




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