HMSA (Blue Cross Blue Shield of Hawaiʻi) has been a part of the Hawaiʻi community since 1938 when social workers created the organization as a way to take care of each other. Expanding that commitment to Hawaiʻi’s people, the HMSA Foundation was established as a public charity in 1986. The foundation began making grants in 1998, after HMSA established a $20 million endowment to fund wider investments in the health care system and activities that build healthy communities and prevent disease.
In its history, the foundation has partnered with local and national organizations to better understand Hawaiʻi’s diverse population and to expand service to previously uninsured individuals in Hawaiʻi. Funding initiatives have included targeting obesity, strengthening children’s health, helping our kupuna (elders), and uplifting our Native Hawaiian community as ways to support the well-being of the place and people of Hawaiʻi. In 2018, the foundation significantly changed its mission and approach in response to the needs of community partners, increased understanding of indigenous frameworks of health, innovations in philanthropy, and growing momentum for addressing the social determinants of health.
HMSA Foundation aims to serve all the people of Hawaiʻi by lifting up and strengthening powerful community practices that can be emulated or will lead to system changes that have a profound impact on health. Its strategy is to fund 10 organizations across Hawaiʻi with diverse constituencies. This includes all ages: young children, teenagers, working families, and seniors. It includes people who live in isolated and rural communities, those needing mental health services, new immigrants facing racism, indigenous Hawaiian families, those living in urban hubs, and those in neighborhoods outside of city centers.
The traditional power dynamic in philanthropy is hindering the opportunity for authentic learning and relationships. Rather than adopting its own theory of change, the foundation requested permission from the community to delve deeper into how indigenous and island people of Hawaiʻi experience and describe health. Through the Pilinaha Framework “connection to self, connection to others, connection to place, and connection to past and future,” it hopes to further develop a new paradigm of health, wealth, wholeness, and happiness around which a functioning and meaningful system can be built.
Funding a cohort of 10 community-based organizations across the islands over five years, the Foundation seeks to understand how a longer-term commitment to community partners can impact people, systems, and communities. Together, the cohort is generating new answers to questions that have been fundamental to the modern health care system: What is a health service? Who is a provider? What is medicine? The HMSA Foundation believes this work will offer suggestions for a new way forward in health and philanthropy.
A small portion of the HMSA Foundation’s resources are reserved for The Community Fund, started in January 2018. Within two weeks of a request, it can provide up to $15,000 to nonprofits or government organizations to support time sensitive, one-time funding needs like travel, training, emergencies, equipment, and seed funding. This strategy helps to broaden the foundation’s relationships and keep it connected to many community partners.
Total Assets: $26 million FY20
Amount Dedicated to Health-Related Grants: $8 million FY 2019
Special Initiatives and/or Representative Health and Human Services Grants
We Are Oceania (WAO)—WAO provides language access, acculturation training, cultural expertise, health connection days, pre-employment training, census enumeration, and service referrals for the growing Pacific Islander population in Hawaiʻi. Due to the impacts of climate change and United States government policies in the Pacific, many Pacific Islanders have migrated to Hawaiʻi to seek jobs, health care, and a new home. WAO is creating a cultural bridge for Pacific Islander families getting accustomed to the systems in the United States and developing new leadership from within their community. ($250,000 over 5 years)
Hawaiian Community Assets (HCA)—In 2000, HCA started as a community development financial institution to build the capacity of low to moderate income communities to sustain economic self-sufficiency with a focus on Native Hawaiians. Since then, it has established Hawaiʻi’s first nonprofit mortgage brokerage, developed construction, and long-term mortgage lending programs for Hawaiian Home lands, and created a HUD-approved homeownership and financial education curriculum to reflect local culture and values. It became Hawaiʻi’s first intermediary responsible for recruiting, training, and placing AmeriCorps participants. Today, HCA conducts statewide housing and financial literacy workshops, training and technical assistance to transitional housing and CBOs, education and financial institutions, and government entities and Veterans centers. It also develops and implements micro-loan products and asset building programs for low to moderate income Hawaiʻi individuals and families. After a three-year leadership transition, the former Executive Director is now building a $60 million associated loan fund with Hawaiʻi Community Lending. ($325,000 over five years)
Kipuka O Ke Ola Rural Health Clinic (KOKO)—KOKO was established in 2014 as a reaction to the lack of access to primary health services for local people in North Hawaiʻi Island and is a part of the larger Waimea Nui Hawaiian Homestead Association community vision. The mental and behavioral health focus is geared towards the recognized need from Dr. Claren Kealoha-Beaudet, who was born and raised in the community. The pursuit of self-governance for the homestead association is interwoven into the mission of this health provider and thus provides a unique perspective on health outcomes in connection with Native Hawaiian sovereignty. ($500,000 over five years)
Molokaʻi Child Abuse Prevention Pathways (MCAPP)—MCAPP was created in 2011 in response to an island wide community assessment focused on elders on the small, rural island of Molokaʻi, Hawaiʻi. The elders and community requested help to address the generational problem of child sexual abuse and thus formed MCAPP and its mission “to keep children safe and support ohana (family) well-being through primary prevention education” with the goal to end sexual violence on the island. MCAPP works through the schools to provide a culturally relevant, evidence-based prevention program and in the community brings awareness and education through outreach and partnerships with the police department, youth sports programs, and churches. ($250,000 over five years)
Kumano I Ke Ala O Makaweli (KIKA)—KIKA focuses its work on land restoration, taro farming, food security, and youth empowerment on the west side of Kauaʻi, Hawaiʻi. It’s leader, Kaina Makua owns the Aloha ‘Āina Poi Company, a company that sells products made with taro grown by local farmers. Kaina Makua speaks the Hawaiian language, holds a master’s degree in Education and has returned home to mentor the next generation of leaders by teaching connection to self, place, and history. KIKA runs several programs for at-risk youth from pre-K introductory aloha ‘āina (land) education through their most comprehensive Kulāiwi program designed to produce taro farmers. All programs instill values like community pride, cultural integrity, responsibility, and love for the land. The vision for KIKA’s taro farm is to produce enough taro for Kauaʻi’s school children to be able to eat taro at school lunch every day. ($300,000 over five years)
Orientation of Our Organization
“We believe that the health of individuals is a product of the health of communities. Therefore, we believe that the communities we serve are more important than our foundation—their needs are more important than ours; their information and ideas are better than ours; they are more deserving of recognition and praise; their time is more valuable than ours. For these reasons, we aim to give our partners maximum flexibility, time, opportunity, connections, advocacy, and support so that together we can learn and lift up the solutions that will change society for the better.”
– Amy Asselbaye, Executive Director, HMSA Foundation