ATLANTA—The Georgia Health Policy Center (GHPC) at Georgia State University has received a $925,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to advance the practice of establishing and using local wellness funds.
Local wellness funds are a promising approach to sustainably assemble resources to finance community health efforts and address other drivers of health outside the health care delivery system, such as housing, education, poverty, food availability and access to safe recreational areas. They allow communities to tap into and coordinate various funding streams, including a possible mix of philanthropic grants, revenue from a tax or other state-funded source, hospital community benefits dollars and contributions from businesses, insurers and community banks, to fund these efforts that could improve health outcomes in a community.
With the grant, GHPC will lead a two-year, national effort that will expand understanding and dissemination of tools to establish these funds and successfully grow them. It will enable GHPC to:
- Develop a national inventory of local/regional collaboratives developing local wellness funds.
- Establish a community of practice excellence, where communities can learn from one another.
- Conduct research on factors enabling and hampering the successful implementation of these funds
- Create tools with other stakeholders to support communities that are interested in advancing the use of local wellness funds.
The initiative, Local Wellness Funds: Advancing the Practice, is driven by learnings published in the book, “Bridging for Health: Improving Community Health Through Innovations in Financing,” also funded by RWJF.
GHPC was the national coordinating center for the original Bridging for Health project, in which seven national sites pursued development of a local wellness fund. Most of the initial sites continue to explore broadening the sources of funds, their population health uses and the structures that govern them. After collectively receiving $1 million in varied support for their local efforts, the sites amassed more than $5.2 million for the start of their local wellness funds.
“It is becoming clear that these funds have the potential to attract and deploy large amounts of resources to support population health,” said Chris Parker, co-director of both Bridging for Health and GHPC’s new award. “Over the past several years, we have learned a lot about what it takes to initiate a local wellness fund. Knowledge and mindset change are not enough to propel community collaboratives into effective fund development. These groups will benefit from new tools and blueprints that will support their innovation acceleration.”